Most of the football world will focus on the Albert Haynesworth soap opera and give 15 minutes attention to the really important news out of the Washington Redskins training camp.
The Redskins have signed rookie offensive tackle Trent Williams, the team announced on Friday. The deal is reported to be for six years and worth a potential $60 million.
Williams is the first offensive lineman selected in the first round by the Snyderskins since Chris Samuels in 2000. That dearth of linemen draftees is attributed to football stupidity, but the Skins usually didn't have a lot of draft picks to work with. The team, for example, gave up two first round picks (16th and 24th) and a fourth and fifth-round pick to move up to make Samuels the third overall pick in the draft that year.
Williams has to fill Samuels' shoes and them were mighty big shoes. Samuels made six Pro Bowls and elevated the play of the entire line. Head coach Mike Shanahan likes what he sees in Williams' athleticism and mobility. Shanahan's West Coast Offense schemes call for backs that run with power, like Terrell Davis, or who are edge rushers, like the Denver version of Clinton Portis. That calls for linemen who are quick.
With the injuries and decline of Jon Jansen, the Redskins found themselves running away from the strong side of the O-line and more to the weak side where Samuels could open holes for the rusher. ("Weak side" because a tight end did not line up to the left of the tackle.) But that made the Redskins predictable on offense.
The addition of Jammal Brown at right tackle and Williams on the left gives Shanahan more playcalling options--on paper. Football isn't played on paper. It's played on television. We still have to see these guys on the field at game speed. Williams will make his rookie mistakes.
Drafting a left tackle is a foundation step. It can have immediate success, but tackles are not that "one last player" needed to make the Super Bowl. The Redskins went 8-8 in Samuels' rookie year. Tackle D'Brickashaw Furguson was the fourth overall selection in the 2006 NFL Draft and helped the New York Jets to a 10-6 season. The Cleveland Browns selected the highly regarded Joe Thomas in the first round of the 2007 Draft and went 10-6 that year, but have gone 9-23 since.
So drafting a talent like Williams can make double-digit wins possible, but only if he's in camp. By signing today, Williams missed but a single practice in pads. That's why his signing is THE news out Redskins camp today.
(Sigh) Reader interest demands I say something about Albert Haynesworth. By now you've read that Big Al flunked his conditioning test again and will get another shot at it tomorrow (Saturday). Gleeful fans will see that as payback. I hope the Shanahans are not thinking that way. My opinion of them will go down if that's the case.
There are good management reasons for this approach, not the least of which is to keep faith with the players who bought into the program since January.
Danny Snyder never seemed to "get" that football is the most team-oriented of sports and that the effort and talent of your mid-tier talent was just as important that of the few elite stars on the roster. The Redskins, even under Joe Gibbs, never got the maximum from the middle.
If OTAs and "mandatory" mini-camps were really important to the owners, players would be fined more than pennies for skipping them. The big sanctions don't happen unless players blow-off training camp.
Shanahan has to be focused on winning and that means putting the most talented, most committed, best conditioned athletes on the field from top to bottom, and not playing those who do not meet all three criteria. The Redskins didn't put the best conditioned players on the field last year (looking at you, CP).
Haynesworth is the only player who must pass a conditioning test because he is the only player who skipped all the OTAs and mini-camp. Washington's conditioning coaches supervised everyone else's conditioning and knew where they were. No one knew for sure where Albert was, or what shape he was in. We just remember him as being gassed during games--a lot.
Shanahan has to keep faith with his management team too. If Haynesworth skates on the conditioning test because he's a star, then Shanahan has undermined all the coaches on his staff--a poor management move in any business.
If Haynesworth plays for the Shanyskins, he has to be in better shape. This is not a lesson lost on mid-tier guys, or any future Redskin. I'll bet you right now that Washington has 100 percent participation in next year's OTAs. In that regard, Haynesworth has done Shanahan a big favor.
There were whispers that Haynesworth was seen in Northern Virginia last June, but did not report for mini-camp. Could he have had an inkling then that he would take this test and didn't feel ready?
The Skins will gladly accept an offer of a first round trade pick for Big Al, but will be better off if an in-shape and angry in a good way Haynesworth is on this defense.
See also Haynesworth Situation About Setting A Standard on Redskins.com.
Points After: Trent Williams signs his rookie contract before his Oklahoma teammate, QB Sam Bradford, first player selected in the 2010 Draft. Usually the No 1 pick sets the market for the rest of the draft. But training camps are open and teams can't wait. So Williams deal with the Redskins will set the bar for Bradford and the Rams.
Tweets by a couple of people say that Terrell Davis and Michael Pittman are at the Redskins training camp as coaching interns. Working for free for the sake of their careers. Heck, I would do it. Wait. That's what I am doing with this blog.