August 1, 2010

Haslett's Flexibility Ensures Carter Will be Productive in 2010

I was unable to attend camp today so here's some camp notes from the Examiner's John Keim.

Something I've wondered about is Andre Carter and how much he will factor into the new 3-4 at outside linebacker. He can rush the passer as well as anyone on the team, but I have been worried about his issues in coverage.

The Redskins have Lorenzo Alexander taking the majority of the first team reps at OLB, but Carter did take some reps with the first team yesterday. Keim told me that Carter is "getting a little more action," with the first team today, and that he had one good play in coverage against Fred Davis.

You won't find a nicer, more positive guy on the team than Carter so it's tough to gauge how he's actually handling the transition, but outwardly he has been upbeat and positive so far. He is coming off a torn bicep, which limited him over the offseason, but he looks to be in tip-top shape now.

Carter's recovery from the injury and subsequent inability to fully participate in OTA's helped Alexander get a leg up in the competition at OLB. Alexander made the most of his opportunity with a performance in the offseason workouts that drew rave reviews from the coaches, prompting them to put him on the first team.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's decision to switch to a 3-4 also led to speculation that Carter would be traded since many believed he would be a poor fit in the system.

In San Francisco, Carter was involved in a 3-4 that demanded he learn to cover the slot receiver. Carter never really adapted to that. However, the Redskins 3-4 defense looks to be featuring a ton of blitzing from the OLBs. The defense puts an emphasis on rushing the passer from the edge, meaning that the scheme is suited to Carter's style. Unlike in San Francisco, Carter won't have a whole lot of responsibilities in coverage when he's lined up at OLB.

Even if he finds himself backing up Alexander, Carter will be on the field much more than a normal reserve. That would make sense for a guy who has 25.5 sacks over the past three years. Carter is a force rushing the passer, and Haslett knows this.

Haslett differs from his predecessor Greg Blache in the fact that he has been tailoring his schemes to fit certain players.

Case in point: Haslett is teaching Albert Haynesworth the right defensive end position, a position in Haslett's scheme which allows for the "most freedom to maneuver." Haynesworth has been adamant that he plays his best football in a system that gives him the choice to improvise. Haslett wants that organized chaos on the field, which is why guys like Haynesworth and Carter will see plenty of snaps.

Blache would never adjust his scheme to his player's abilities, and we saw this first-hand with Haynesworth and LaRon Landry last year.

Haslett's flexibility will only benefit his players and keep them content in the locker room. Carter might not start, but being the consummate professional he is, I would be willing to bet that he gladly accepts a role that will play to his strengths while also keeping him fresh by splitting time with Alexander.

Last year was a frustrating one for a talented group of defenders. Blache stymied their growth with an uninspired defensive philosophy, and as a result we were treated to a year full of uninspired performances. This year the talent is still there, but with it comes a leader who will energize them with his creativity rather than prevent them from reaching their full potential.

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