The best of Albert Haynesworth is yet to be.
The Redskins' prized free-agent acquisition and anchor of the defensive line says his true impact will be on display as the season unfolds.
Reticent with the media, Haynesworth told Redskins.com that the defensive scheme continues to expand to suit his talent as his comfort level grows.
"The more you play, the more comfortable you get with the defense," he said Thursday after the morning walk-through practice at Redskins Park. "I haven't really opened it up quite yet. We're doing more but not everything yet. It's piece by piece."
Haynesworth and a defense ranked fifth in the NFL gets their sternest challenge of a trying season on Monday night when the Redskins (2-4) line up at home against the Philadelphia Eagles (3-2). The Eagles rank fifth in the NFL in total offense.
They will be seeing a defense they know well, with one exception. And that is Haynesworth.
The Redskins had 24 sacks a year. Looking to add more pressure on quarterbacks and force more turnovers, they targeted this huge interior presence in free agency as he came off consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
He signed a seven-year contract laden with clauses and bonuses that could bring its value well over $100 million, the most ever for a defensive tackle. With that notoriety come expectations.
Has he helped? The Redskins have 15 sacks in six games, eight in the last two. Haynesworth has 1.5. Fans counting on ridiculous numbers immediately might be disappointed but the transition from one scheme to another takes time.
"He had to understand the philosophy, how the D-line attacks certain gaps, where the linebackers fit. He's come along real well. He's been plugging up the run with Cornelius Griffin and when it comes to the pass rush, we go huntin'," says defensive end Andre Carter.
The Redskins ranked fourth last year in total defense and they are fifth right now, third against the pass. Their seven takeaways, however, put them near the bottom of the league. The Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys each have four but have played one fewer game.
Carter leads the team in sacks with 5.5 and has been a prime beneficiary of the 340-pound Haynesworth attracting double-team blocks. Carter had 4 sacks last year.
He also well understands the outsized expectations placed on marquee players who come in from elsewhere, as he did three years ago when the Redskins signed him away from the San Francisco 49ers.
"He's been great. That's the thing, unfortunately, that happens when a new guy comes in and signs a big-money contract. I had a little bit of that in 2006. You just have to do what your coaches ask you to do," Carter says.
At 2-4, the Redskins might not be everything Haynesworth imagined when he came aboard but his former team, 13-3 last year, is now 0-6.
"I have, like, brothers on that team," Haynesworth says. "I sympathize with them but we've got our own problems here. They're trying to get things straight. At least we've got some wins."
Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.