Haynesworth drawing attention


Opposing teams have had a hard time containing Albert Haynesworth, who is enjoying his best season to date.
No, he doesn't think he's playing better now than he did a year ago.

The New York Jets have studied him on film. Respectfully, they disagree.

"Haynesworth is playing unbelievable," Jets quarterback Brett Favre said. "To say we're going to block him, I'm sure a lot of teams have said that. We got to find a way to run the ball effective, slow down their pass-rush and be able to deal with their back end."

Jets left guard Alan Faneca called it rare when an offense has to prepare for an interior lineman but sees Haynesworth as someone they must target to stop. The last such lineman he had to prepare for like that?

"Warren Sapp in his heyday, you definitely had to account for him because he brought that speed and power, kind of like how Albert is bringing now," Faneca said.

Statistically, Haynesworth is having his best year in his seventh NFL season. He already has a career-high seven sacks, and he also is tied for sixth on the team with 54 tackles. He is tied for the team-lead with 15 quarterback pressures, and he also has six tackles for losses.

The timing couldn't be better for the 6-foot-6, 320-pound man still best known to some for swiping his foot across Andre Gurode's head in 2006, a move that brought him the NFL's longest suspension ever for an on-field act.

Tennessee (10-0) franchised him last February, and both sides failed to reach agreement on a new contract before the league deadline. The Titans agreed to some incentives allowing Haynesworth to play his way into free agency, and he's easily on his way to doing just that.

"He's clearly ahead of where he's ever been right now," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said of their 2002 No. 1 draft pick from the University of Tennessee. He's playing more plays, he's very disruptive, he's putting great pressure on the passer."

A year ago, Haynesworth was playing so well that he was being mentioned as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. Then he strained a hamstring, an injury that kept him out of three games and limited him the rest of 2007. Now he's making a quiet case for himself this year on a defense that has been without end Kyle Vanden Bosch for most of the past six games.

Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck sees a more mature Haynesworth this season.

"Last year was such a big breakout for him, it probably didn't settle in until after the season. ... He had time to reflect and realize and understand what he did and the approach he wanted to bring to this season. Obviously, he's got himself ready to play, worked out on his own, came into camp ready even though he wasn't with us ...," Bulluck said.

"You can see the work that he put in."

Good thing because Haynesworth estimates he's been double-teamed 95 percent of the time this season, up from 75 percent in 2007. In last week's 24-14 win at Jacksonville, he said the Jaguars even used a fullback to chip on him in the backfield after he got past center Brad Meester. He still managed a sack, two tackles for loss and had seven tackles with a forced fumble.

Haynesworth takes it as a sign of respect.

"They're game-planning for me, it's giving everyone a chance to get free, and I have to make things happen if I can," Haynesworth said.

That is why the Titans move Haynesworth around. He often flips to the outside with Vanden Bosch moving inside, and the Titans also switch up by putting both tackle Tony Brown and Haynesworth on one side. Brown, originally signed to fill in for Haynesworth during his suspension, has started beside the veteran the past two seasons.

"I've never seen him play like he's playing right now. He's on track. I'm just so glad to be beside him because he just causes so much confusion," Brown said.

The Titans will have a chance to sign Haynesworth to a new deal once the regular season ends and before free agency begins in late February. Haynesworth repeatedly has said he wants to stay with the Titans.

"That would be great because right now I don't think there's anyone out there we can find that's comparable to Albert to play in our defense," Bulluck said.

INJURY REPORT:Bulluck practiced Thursday for the first time since hurting a rib on Nov. 2, and Vanden Bosch also practiced as he tries to return after missing three of the past four games.

Cornerback Nick Harper did not practice with a right foot injury, and said he's day to day. He sat out last week's game, and he said the Titans want to heal the injury so it doesn't nag him the rest of the season.

Defensive ends Jevon Kearse (knee) and William Hayes (knee) did not practice with a day of rest. Defensive tackle Jason Jones (foot) also sat out again, along with cornerback Reynaldo Hill (hip).

Related Content

Advertising