Can Horses Handle Haynesworth?

The interior of the Colts offensive line is inexperienced and has struggled for long stretches this season. How will they stop Albert Haynesworth, who is arguably the best player the Titans have on defense? Brad Keller takes a look.

Albert Haynesworth typically lines up at the nose tackle position in the 4-3 scheme that the Titans deploy, so he will position himself between center Jeff Saturday and left guard Jamey Richard for most of this evening.

Haynesworth has, throughout the course of his seven-year career, become very adept at shooting that gap, squeezing his massive frame through the guard and center, and getting to the quarterback.

He currently leads Tennessee with six sacks, which is a remarkable number for a player at his position — the nose tackle position in the Titans defense is very similar to the nose tackle position in the Colts defense in that the nose tackle is primarily responsible for working as a run stopper and any pass rush that player provides is an added bonus.

Haynesworth will be chasing Eli's older brother tonight
AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Haynesworth is an excellent two-way defender, though, and has also contributed 23 tackles — 18 of which were solo tackles — which is also impressive, considering that he's supposed to just occupy blockers and allow the linebackers to flow to the football.

He has excellent feet and gets off the ball very quickly.  He also uses his power, hands, and leverage to their greatest advantage, so he is one of the few tall defenders out there that can both use his long strides to cover a short distance very quickly, but can also get low and not get washed out or pushed around by a smaller offensive lineman that is able to get into his body.  His motor never stops and he is one of the most active, physical linemen in the NFL.

Although Haynesworth does represent an extremely daunting challenge for Richard and Saturday — it would be foolish to think that one or the other would be able to take on Haynesworth by themselves, so he must be double teamed — he is not unstoppable and there certainly are good ways and bad ways to approach him.

Haynesworth's game is all about penetration.  Since he is bigger and stronger than most of the offensive linemen he faces, he can usually just push past them or plow through them.  And since he moves very well for a man his size and has a very quick first step off the snap, he can usually catch the lineman off guard, making it easier to exercise one of those two options.

However, if Saturday and Richard work together, they can take advantage of all that inertia and use it against him.

At the snap, Haynesworth will move quickly and aggressively into the gap.  Saturday must be at least as aggressive, moving to his left and redirecting Haynesworth into Richard and away from the gap.  Richard has to match Haynesworth's intensity and he also must get his hands on the big man in order to engage him long enough for Saturday to come over and assist.

Since Haynesworth will already be headed in a given direction, the easiest and best course of action will be to re-direct him slightly and make sure he keeps heading up the field.

Until the whistle sounds Haynesworth will be moving around.  While it's impossible to stop him in his tracks, guiding him in a given direction — away from the play — should prove to be much easier.  Not easy, but easier.

Since Haynesworth is on the same side of the field as Kyle Vanden Bosch and Keith Bulluck, it would not make sense for the Colts to try to run to the weak side of the formation, instead focusing on the strong side and making Haynesworth move and work for any plays that he makes.

The harder Saturday and Richard can make him work and the more they can frustrate him and make him run around, the more exhausted and angry Haynesworth will become.

Haynesworth's biggest flaw is his lack of focus and discipline.  If Saturday and Richard can get in his head, he'll start taking poor angles, start trying to do too much, and perhaps let his temper get the best of him by committing a personal foul penalty. 

The game of football in general comes very easy and very naturally to Haynesworth.  He is not accustomed to being stymied or frustrated.  Even if the Colts are successful with this strategy, Haynesworth will still make plays. With that in mind, the Indianapolis linemen need to make sure that they do not get frustrated or angry, since the idea is not to completely shut Haynesworth down, but to keep the damage he inflicts on the offense to a minimum.

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