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Lions' Schwartz Knows Haynesworth's Impact

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Maybe the Detroit Lions thought about trading for Albert Haynesworth. Maybe the Redskins thought about trading him.

The trading deadline came and went. If the Lions had interest, it would have made sense. Their head coach, Jim Schwartz, was the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator for all of Haynesworth's time there and the Lions desperately needed to improve their defensive line both before the draft and even now.

"We're interested in about any player that can help us," Schwartz said by phone the other day from Detroit. "There are about a million scenarios that occur in the offseason, from draft conversations to free-agent conversations to trade conversations, to all those different things. If I commented on every single one of them, that's all we'd spend our time on."

The Lions didn't trade for Haynesworth and the Redskins didn't trade him. When the teams meet Sunday at Ford Field, Schwartz will see his old protégé at work as well as his new one – rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Haynesworth's two-year tenure with the Redskins has been trying, but suddenly so is Haynesworth. He played 33 snaps against the Chicago Bears and got his first sack of the season, made two tackles for loss and helped create a goal-line turnover with his leap into quarterback Jay Cutler, which resulted in London Fletcher stripping the ball.

In looking at the tape of that game, Schwartz saw the player he remembered.

"It's him being disruptive, attacking blockers, knocking them back, affecting the run and the pass. He was hard to handle, one on one. Those are the things I remember about Albert," Schwartz said.

Haynesworth went to two Pro Bowls with the Titans, then signed in 2009 with the Redskins as a free agent. Schwartz, in his second season as the Lions coach, got the defensive tackle he craved last April with the second overall pick in the draft.

In a rare appearance before the media Thursday, Haynesworth spoke well of Schwartz and his approach.

"Really good dude, really smart," he said. "I always said if he got a chance to be a head coach he's going to be a great head coach. He doesn't force his style of play or defense on his players. He adapts to the strengths of his team."

Suh leads the Lions with 4.5 sacks and keeps impressing Schwartz with the way he approaches the game.

"He stepped right in and has played at a high level already, mainly because he's very, very mature, he's serious about football and he's incredibly strong. You know, he's not the biggest defensive lineman on our team. He's probably the third biggest defensive lineman on our team. He is by far the strongest. He's just incredibly strong. He has very good instincts for the game, he's very serious about his craft, he's very mature, but you can see him improve from week to week," Schwartz said.

Haynesworth's role in the Redskins' 3-4 scheme continues to evolve. Finding a comfort level after eight seasons as an attacking defensive tackle hasn't been easy. He also missed two games after the death of his brother in a motorcycle accident, returning to the lineup in Chicago and making his biggest plays.

Discussions with the coaching staff bore fruit. Rather than work Haynesworth as much as a nose tackle in the 3-4, the Redskins shifted his responsibilities to end in the nickel alignment.

"I'm not good enough to play the 3-4 and we've got a guy in front of me (Ma'ake Kemoeatu) who can play the 3-4 better than I can," Haynesworth said. "So whatever helps the team. I do get to play the nickel and I play well in that so that's when you see me out there."

The interior D-linemen tend not to jump out in reviews of tape but Schwartz took special note of Haynesworth's play against the Bears.

"For sure, he affected that game," he said. "Generally defensive tackles are sort of the unsung heroes. You don't notice them a whole lot but they clog up the run or they do a good job pressuring the passer inside. When you can make impact plays at those positions, that's not only obvious but it's a big contribution to the win."

Suh is quite familiar with Haynesworth, having studied the old Tennessee tapes.

He said he was fortunate to have "an opportunity to watch a guy that dominated in the exact system. It's definitely been great to be able to watch film, more or less in camp and before the season started, to get a good feel of how to play and do certain things in this scheme."

Haynesworth is 6-6, 335 pounds. Suh plays at 6-4, 307 and is not the biggest, but is certainly the strongest, of Detroit's linemen.

"It's good that I don't have to be 330 pounds, 340 pounds or even 315 pounds to hold my own in the interior line," Suh said. "I'm really just thanking my parents for my genes."


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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