Jim Haslett: Albert Haynesworth in 3-4 Defense is Square Peg in Round Hole

One of the biggest stories this off-season was Albert Haynesworth’s refusal to appear at off-season activities for the Washington Redskins. The team had paid him a $21 million bonus but Albert was reluctant to participate because he didn’t feel like the team’s switch to a 3-4 defense fit him well. After embarrassing Haynesworth with conditioning drills, the defensive tackle is finally playing with the team and guess what? They’ve admitted the 3-4 defense is not a good fit for him!

“Trying to get him to do the 3-4 stuff was trying to get a square peg into a round hole. We were trying to force the issue,” [defensive coordinator Jim] Haslett said. “Obviously, it hasn’t worked out the way we would like. I still think he can do it, ’cause he’s a good athlete and he is athletic and tough enough to do it. I think he just needs more time doing it. … The good coaches in the league are smart enough to know that you try to get a guy to fit the system, but there’s no reason why you can’t change the system to fit the guy.”

I never agreed with the way Haynesworth handled his business — if he wanted to play in a different system, he shouldn’t have cashed his bonus check. Once he cashed the check, he should have joined the team in workouts and been a model teammate. Still, the Redskins were hurting themselves by dicking Albert around and not using him during games. The big man had a monster game against the Bears this past weekend and is a difference-maker. They’re only hurting themselves by not playing him or getting the defense to fit him better. Now that he’s on the field consistently, Washington is much more of a defensive threat.

Captain Morgan’s NFL Halloween Weekend Preview: Texans vs. Colts

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Why Should I Watch?

You won’t hear many people talking about it, but the AFC South has quietly emerged as one of the best divisions in football.  The Houston Texans began their season with a bang when they defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a convincing score of 34-24 in Houston.  The Texans have since leveled off a bit, but the Colts have not played exceptionally well and are battling significant injuries.  Indy will be looking to prove week one was a fluke, while Houston will be trying to convince the AFC they’re for real.

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Troy Smith Finally Gets His Shot: Starting for Niners in London Against Broncos

It wasn’t the boos or Mike Singletary that took Alex Smith out of the lineup for the 49ers — a separated shoulder has the former number one overall pick out 2-3 weeks. Backup David Carr played so poorly in relief of Smith last weekend at Carolina that San Francisco has declared third-stringer Troy Smith their starting quarterback.

He wears number one on his jersey and he remains number one in Ohio State fans’ hearts, Troy Smith is in his fourth season (fourth already!) as a quarterback in the NFL. Smith seems to be the forgotten man when it comes to Heisman Trophy winners in the NFL. Selected in the 5th round in 2007, nobody expected much out of him in the pros so he’s never received the bust label. Weird thing is four years into his career, we really don’t have a clue who he is and what he can do.

Smith has thrown 89 career passes, completing 48 of them for 558 career yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He was actually set to be Baltimore’s starting quarterback in 2008, his second year in the league, but a severe case of tonsillitis kept him from eating for four days and he lost 20 pounds as a result, falling out of football shape. Rookie Joe Flacco played well in his place and took over the starting job.

Troy Smith served as Flacco’s backup the last two years until Baltimore decided to bring in Marc Bulger as their backup. Smith went to San Francisco and wound up as the third string guy, sandwiched between David Carr and Nate Davis, and now we finally will have a chance to see him in action. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting for a few years to see Troy Smith get his shot and I’m excited to see what he’ll do.

Broncos-Niners Game in London Expected to Sell Out

It’s a good thing football is a little-known sport in Europe.  Otherwise, this year’s chapter in the NFL London series would probably draw the attendance of a Division 3 high school football season opener.

Generally speaking, fans in England make their way out to Wembley Stadium when the NFL comes to town because it’s a new phenomenon.  Europeans are passionate and informed about soccer but still learning about American football.  That’s probably why this weekend’s contest in Great Britain is expected to sell out, despite the fact that it’s a match-up between the San Francisco 49ers (1-6) and the Denver Broncos (2-5).  If you’d like to know more about either team, they’re both conveniently located in the bottom five of our Week 8 NFL power rankings.

It can’t get much worse than that.  In fact — given the way both teams have played lately — this game could be the worst of the weekend.  When the NFL first scheduled this game to be played in London, there’s no way they could have known the two would start out so poorly.  However, if they eventually achieve their goal of globalizing American football and expanding their fan base, they’ll need to send over a better product.

For now, just having a football game in London creates enough buzz.  Last year, 84,254 fans visited Wembley Stadium to watch the Patriots dominate the Bucs.  This year, another 80,000 are expected in attendance to watch the bottom of the barrel in the NFL.  With an increased knowledge of the NFL and the game of football, European fans will eventually figure out that the product their being sent is garbage.  That will either mark the end of this experiment, or force the NFL to put more effort into scheduling the right game for this annual event.

LBS NFL Power Rankings Week 8

1. New York Jets (5-1, –)

Nothing drastic enough happened that would dethrone the New York Jets over their bye week. They’ll have a chance to prove they deserve it this Sunday against a Packers team that will only get stronger as it keeps getting healthier.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1, –)

The refs more or less handed the Steelers the game against the Dolphins on a bad call late in the game.  A win is a win in the NFL.  Don’t be surprised if Roethlisberger suffers his first loss of the season in New Orleans Sunday night.  The Saints will be looking to bounce back.

3. New England Patriots (5-1, –)

Again, a win is a win in the NFL. Despite another puzzling Bill Belichick decision to go for it on fourth down, the Chargers made enough mistakes that the Patriots were able to capitalize on. They’ll take a win any way they can get it, especially traveling to the West Coast.

4. Baltimore Ravens (5-2, –)

It’s tough to not drop the Ravens after they were nearly beat by the Bills, but I don’t think any of the teams listed below are truly stronger at this point. Give them credit for overcoming two separate 14-point deficits and winning what could have been a massive trap game.

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Brad Childress: Patriots Some of the ‘All-Time Great Signal Stealers’

Being accused of cheating is nothing new to the New England Patriots.  Since 2007, when Eric Mangini sold the Pats out for filming opponents’ signals, they’ve had fingers pointed at them for everything from toying with opponents’ headsets to filming their Super Bowl walkthroughs.  It’s fun to call someone a cheater, especially when they’re good at what they do and actually did cheat.

However, I’m not sure I’d be accusing anyone of anything if my name were Brad Childress.  The Pats and Vikings are set to square off on Halloween, which will be the first meeting between the teams since 2006.  New England won that game 31-7, and Childress had the stones to pull the spygate card when recalling it.

I’m mindful of the last time we faced [the Patriots] here on Monday Night Football,” Childress told reporters. “It was like a surgical procedure. That’s back when we used to signal [plays] and things like that. I remember having a conversation with [then-defensive coordinator] Mike Tomlin about that. These were some of the all-time great signal stealers. In fact, that’s what was going on. They were holding, holding, holding. We were signaling from the sideline. They were good at it. It’s like stealing signals from a catcher.”

I’d have no problem with these comments if they weren’t coming from a coach who can’t control his players.  Shouldn’t Childress be more concerned about whether or not he’s going to have the balls to end Brett Favre’s consecutive games played streak?  His Vikings are headed in the wrong direction, and now he has to deal with a quarterback who has fractures in his foot but an ego that’s larger than life.  Not that he got along with said quarterback in the first place.  Hot seat, anyone?

Where Is the Media Outcry Over Bill Belichick’s Repeated 4th Down Call?

The media has proven itself to be exactly what we thought they were: results-oriented rather than process-oriented, not unlike the way most people are in life. While the top story of the week from the NFL weekend (aside from Tony Romo’s injury) has been the brutal call for the Steelers against the Dolphins, there’s hardly been a mention of Bill Belichick’s decision to go for another 4th down conversion late in a close game. Why is that? Because the Patriots won the game. Had they lost, this would be all the talk. Let’s recap the choice.

With just under two minutes, the Pats were up three on the Chargers. New England had a 4th and 1 at their 49. If they convert, the game is over. If they get stopped, the Chargers are 15-20 yards away from a reasonable distance field goal to tie the game. The Pats handed the ball off to BenJarvus Green-Ellis who was stuffed running left. San Diego got the ball, completed two passes to Antonio Gates for 20 yards to set up a 4th down field goal from 45 yards out. A false start penalty backed them up five yards and kicker Kris Brown sailed it wide right, giving New England a win. Had Brown made the field goal, they would have gone to overtime. Had they lost, people would be all over Bill like last year.

Because we DH the guy who went 0-for-4 with four line drives over the guy who went 2-for-4 with an infield single and a bloop job, we will review Belichick’s controversial decision to see if the process was right.

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