Looming Large: Albert Haynesworth

For the second consecutive year, the Jaguars open the season against the Tennessee Titans, this time swapping venues and playing in Nashville. Last year the Titans physically dominated the Jags up front, which was an unusual sight since Jack Del Rio took over the team in 2003. Tennessee won the game largely due to out-rushing the Jaguars by 210 yards.

The key to the disruption of the vaunted Jaguars rushing attack centered on defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. This was the game that ignited a season in which many analysts were calling for Haynesworth to be given the Defensive Player of the Year award. Haynesworth was in the backfield all game and recorded five solo tackles.

Haynesworth, the 15th overall selection in the 2002 NFL Draft, has always been linked with Jaguar defensive tackle John Henderson. Both were dominant in college and both were high first round picks out of the University of Tennessee. Prior to last season, Haynesworth never played up to his ability for a variety of reasons while Henderson flourished with two Pro Bowl appearances and an All-Pro selection in his first six seasons. Haynesworth routinely came into camp overweight earning the nickname "Fat Albert" from rival fans and the media alike. He was also involved in altercations in practice, most notably kicking former Titans center Jeff Hartwig in the chest. Haynesworth then went on to earn the longest suspension for on-field behavior in NFL history for stomping on Cowboys' center Andre Gurode's head in a game in 2006.

Even with a temper reminiscent of the NBA's Ron Artest, Haynesworth is a guy that needs to be on the field for the Titans to be successful. He has not played a full season in his entire career. Since his second year in the NFL, the Titans have a 33-26 record with Haynesworth on the field and a 6-15 record with Haynesworth either sidelined by injury or suspension. Over the last two seasons, Tennessee is 16-8 with Haynesworth and 2-6 without.

Last season was a turning point of sorts for Haynesworth, though. Gone were the incessant personal fouls and suspensions, and out came the raw talent that everyone knew he possessed but never were able to see consistently. Before his hamstring injury last season, Haynesworth was arguably the most dominant defensive player in the entire NFL. He accumulated five of his six sacks on the season during the first eight games. The Titans amassed a 10-3 record with Haynesworth battling in the trenches and were winless in the three games Haynesworth missed due to injury. Not only did he earn his first trip to Hawaii, but he was named a first-team All-Pro and finished tied for second for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award.

Instead of letting Haynesworth walk into free agency after his spectacular 2007 season, the Titans slapped the franchise tag on him. While Tennessee was hoping to sign Haynesworth long-term, the two sides could not come to an agreement before the July 15th deadline for franchised players. Assuming he signs the franchise tender ($7.25 million for one year), he will be in another contract year and we all know what he did last season in the last year of his contract.

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