Haynesworth taking a leap this season

Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth is off to a tremendous start this season, acting as a disruptive force both against the run and the pass. Despite a sore ankle, he should play, and in this premium piece the Bucs and Titans coach Jeff Fisher talk about why Haynesworth is playing so well in 2007.

Jeff Garcia saw the play and said he was impressed.

Late in last Sunday's game between Tennessee and Atlanta, Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth leaped — yes, leaped — over the Falcons offensive line to make a key defensive play as the Falcons were driving for a game-tying score.

Haynesworth is a 6-foot-6, 320-pound tackle, if you must know.

The Falcons were running a toss play on 1st-and-goal. The play was intended to have Warrick Dunn take the toss and run behind fullback Ovie Mughelli.

But the ball never got there. Haynesworth leap-frogged the guard and center before Falcons quarterback Byron Leftwich could make the pitch.

"I think we had it," Falcons head coach Bobby Petrino said. "I think we had it blocked. We had the play. I've never really seen that before."

According to Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, Haynesworth's familiarity with Leftwich helped from their days in the AFC South.

"He had a sense for Byron and where he was lined up," Fisher said. "He has lined up underneath and below Byron many, many times. In that sense, if he's a little late, he's a little late. It's half the distance to the goal line. But he was thinking, ‘Make a play.'"

Seems Haynesworth has been thinking that a lot lately.

Even without the hurdle, Haynesworth is having an attention-grabbing season. He's the triggerman inside for the third-ranked rushing defense in the NFL, one that allows only 72.3 yards rushing per game. He even contributes to the Titans passing defense, ranked No. 10 in the league. He has a sack and 10 quarterback pressures in five games.

He's a disruptive force inside, much the way Warren Sapp was for the Buccaneers during his prime.

"It looks like Albert Haynesworth is playing better than he's ever played," Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said. "He is a great football player, a totally disruptive player."

And this is a far cry from where he was this time last year.

Haynesworth became the poster boy for bad on-field behavior during the Titans' loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 1. During that game, Haynesworth apparently became so enraged that he stepped on helmetless Cowboys center Andre Gurode, opening up a gash on the lineman's head.

The former first-round pick served a five-game suspension for his action. He also apologized to Gurode and did his penance publicly, speaking about what happened and showing contrition for his actions. But the suspension derailed what appeared to be a promising season for Haynesworth.

He appears to be making up for it this season. His performance against the Falcons on Sunday was key in limiting Atlanta to 99 yards rushing. He also keyed the Titans' performance in the red zone, as the Falcons made five trips inside the Titans' 20 and came away with only six points.

And Garcia will have to watch out on Sunday.

"As big as he is, he can move very well," Garcia said. "He's very quick off the football. That's something that we're going to have to contend with this weekend."

Titans primer

Three things to watch for as Tennessee faces Tampa Bay on Sunday:

The pass rush

Led by Kyle Vanden Bosch and Antwan Odom, the Titans have an underrated pass rush that already has eight sacks this season.

White and Brown

LenDale White and Chris Brown are sharing the carries for the Titans, with Brown averaging a crisp 5.3 yards per carry on 10 fewer attempts than White.

Game management

Jeff Fisher praises quarterback Vince Young's management of the game. The Bucs defense has a tendency to disrupt a QB's ability to manage the offense.

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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