These five stars need to recover what they lost

When the Redskins spent big money on Albert Haynesworth, they expected big things. Instead, Haynesworth has been a huge disappointment.

He was nowhere close to being a dominant defensive tackle last season, and the Redskins finished 4-12. Now Haynesworth has miffed management, coaches and teammates by staying away from offseason workouts and refusing to embrace the Redskins’ switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

"I don’t think Albert understands, or cares to understand, the role he could play in the Redskins’ scheme," former Redskins quarterback and longtime TV analyst Joe Theismann said. "He gets a ton of money to play football. I don’t know where in his contract it says, ‘I will only play in a 4-3 defense.’ I think everybody is questioning his commitment to the football team, and rightfully so."

Albert Haynesworth needs to start living up to his large contract.
Albert Haynesworth needs to start living up to his large contract.

With a mandatory minicamp (June 16-18) approaching, it’s unclear whether Haynesworth will buy in or try to force his way out of Washington. But as offseason workouts continue, here’s a look at Haynesworth and four other players who need to play more like stars than they did in 2009:

Albert Haynesworth, DT, Redksins. No matter where Haynesworth lines up in the 3-4, the Redskins would be foolish not to give him freedom to use his rare combination of power and agility. That is another reason Haynesworth should have attended minicamps. If he had, he may have found a comfort zone in the new defense by now.

"I think you should buy in and see how it works before you reject something," ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley said. "That’s why you have OTAs and offseason workouts—to get a feel for changes. I think that’s why you’re hearing comments from some of his teammates, wishing he was working out with them. They just want him to give it a shot."

Haynesworth has the talent to play well in any system, but he must also have the right mindset. Re-establishing himself as a dominant defensive player is the best way for Haynesworth to silence critics questioning his desire.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets. In 2007 with the Chargers, Cromartie had 10 interceptions and was one of the league’s top corners. But his play hasn’t approached that level since, and he can’t hide in New York playing opposite Jets star Darrelle Revis.

Nobody picks on Revis, so Cromartie could be busier than a Manhattan traffic cop this season. If he is still an elite corner, Cromartie will have plenty of opportunities to make plays. If he isn’t, he will be picked on.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. In 2008 with the Broncos, he led the AFC in passing yards. In 2009 with the Bears, Cutler led the NFL in interceptions. Much of the Bears’ immediate future hinges on Cutler playing like a franchise quarterback.

"If there’s one guy that I’m curious about, he’s the guy," Theismann said. "Of all the 32 starting quarterbacks, this is the year Jay Cutler needs to move into an elite category, a consistent level of play, not the erratic level that we’ve seen."

Cutler has become the project of new Bears coordinator Mike Martz. Though I remain skeptical about the Martz-Cutler marriage, Theismann believes it will work.

Brandon Jacobs might be on the downside of his career after years of punishing running.
Brandon Jacobs might be on the downside of his career after years of punishing running.

"I expect him (Cutler) to have a terrific year," Theismann said. "Mike Martz is very demanding, but he’s also a dynamic play-caller. I think the Bears will be a team that can challenge for the division title."

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants. After averaging 5 yards per carry in ’07 and ’08, Jacobs fell to just 3.7 yards per carry and 835 yards in 2009. Jacobs underwent offseason knee surgery and has vowed to be a 1,000-yard back again. The Giants need him to be. After leading the league in rushing in 2008, when they won the NFC East, they fell to 17th last season and failed to make the playoffs.

Because Jacobs turns 28 in July and has absorbed and delivered a lot of punishing hits, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are already past. The Giants had myriad problems on both sides of the ball in 2009, but a return to star form by Jacobs would improve their chances of returning to the playoffs.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals. From 2005 through 2007, Palmer was one of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks, completing at least 320 passes and throwing for at least 3,800 yards and 26 touchdowns each season.

Palmer may never reach those numbers again because the Bengals are no longer a pass-happy team. But they need Palmer to play better than he did during last season’s playoff loss to the Jets, when he missed open receivers several times.

Not that Palmer was solely at fault. With Revis all but making Chad Ochocinco disappear, the Jets made it painfully clear that the Bengals needed more weapons.

"If you’re going to throw the football—and you have to at this level—you need receivers," Theismann said. "Have they done enough to help Carson Palmer? I don’t know. When you’re a quarterback who feels he has to make up for inadequacies, you force yourself to do things that create problems."

The Bengals drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham and acquired veteran wide receiver Antonio Bryant, hoping they can take some defensive attention away from Ochocinco. We know Palmer is good. But for the Bengals to win the AFC North again and advance in the playoffs, Palmer will have to be special.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

When the Redskins spent big money on Albert Haynesworth, they expected big things. Instead, Haynesworth has been a huge disappointment.

He was nowhere close to being a dominant defensive tackle last season, and the Redskins finished 4-12. Now Haynesworth has miffed management, coaches and teammates by staying away from offseason workouts and refusing to embrace the Redskins’ switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense.

"I don’t think Albert understands, or cares to understand, the role he could play in the Redskins’ scheme," former Redskins quarterback and longtime TV analyst Joe Theismann said. "He gets a ton of money to play football. I don’t know where in his contract it says, ‘I will only play in a 4-3 defense.’ I think everybody is questioning his commitment to the football team, and rightfully so."

Albert Haynesworth needs to start living up to his large contract.
Albert Haynesworth needs to start living up to his large contract.

With a mandatory minicamp (June 16-18) approaching, it’s unclear whether Haynesworth will buy in or try to force his way out of Washington. But as offseason workouts continue, here’s a look at Haynesworth and four other players who need to play more like stars than they did in 2009:

Albert Haynesworth, DT, Redksins. No matter where Haynesworth lines up in the 3-4, the Redskins would be foolish not to give him freedom to use his rare combination of power and agility. That is another reason Haynesworth should have attended minicamps. If he had, he may have found a comfort zone in the new defense by now.

"I think you should buy in and see how it works before you reject something," ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive end Marcellus Wiley said. "That’s why you have OTAs and offseason workouts—to get a feel for changes. I think that’s why you’re hearing comments from some of his teammates, wishing he was working out with them. They just want him to give it a shot."

Haynesworth has the talent to play well in any system, but he must also have the right mindset. Re-establishing himself as a dominant defensive player is the best way for Haynesworth to silence critics questioning his desire.

Antonio Cromartie, CB, Jets. In 2007 with the Chargers, Cromartie had 10 interceptions and was one of the league’s top corners. But his play hasn’t approached that level since, and he can’t hide in New York playing opposite Jets star Darrelle Revis.

Nobody picks on Revis, so Cromartie could be busier than a Manhattan traffic cop this season. If he is still an elite corner, Cromartie will have plenty of opportunities to make plays. If he isn’t, he will be picked on.

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears. In 2008 with the Broncos, he led the AFC in passing yards. In 2009 with the Bears, Cutler led the NFL in interceptions. Much of the Bears’ immediate future hinges on Cutler playing like a franchise quarterback.

"If there’s one guy that I’m curious about, he’s the guy," Theismann said. "Of all the 32 starting quarterbacks, this is the year Jay Cutler needs to move into an elite category, a consistent level of play, not the erratic level that we’ve seen."

Cutler has become the project of new Bears coordinator Mike Martz. Though I remain skeptical about the Martz-Cutler marriage, Theismann believes it will work.

Brandon Jacobs might be on the downside of his career after years of punishing running.
Brandon Jacobs might be on the downside of his career after years of punishing running.

"I expect him (Cutler) to have a terrific year," Theismann said. "Mike Martz is very demanding, but he’s also a dynamic play-caller. I think the Bears will be a team that can challenge for the division title."

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants. After averaging 5 yards per carry in ’07 and ’08, Jacobs fell to just 3.7 yards per carry and 835 yards in 2009. Jacobs underwent offseason knee surgery and has vowed to be a 1,000-yard back again. The Giants need him to be. After leading the league in rushing in 2008, when they won the NFC East, they fell to 17th last season and failed to make the playoffs.

Because Jacobs turns 28 in July and has absorbed and delivered a lot of punishing hits, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are already past. The Giants had myriad problems on both sides of the ball in 2009, but a return to star form by Jacobs would improve their chances of returning to the playoffs.

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals. From 2005 through 2007, Palmer was one of the league’s most prolific quarterbacks, completing at least 320 passes and throwing for at least 3,800 yards and 26 touchdowns each season.

Palmer may never reach those numbers again because the Bengals are no longer a pass-happy team. But they need Palmer to play better than he did during last season’s playoff loss to the Jets, when he missed open receivers several times.

Not that Palmer was solely at fault. With Revis all but making Chad Ochocinco disappear, the Jets made it painfully clear that the Bengals needed more weapons.

"If you’re going to throw the football—and you have to at this level—you need receivers," Theismann said. "Have they done enough to help Carson Palmer? I don’t know. When you’re a quarterback who feels he has to make up for inadequacies, you force yourself to do things that create problems."

The Bengals drafted tight end Jermaine Gresham and acquired veteran wide receiver Antonio Bryant, hoping they can take some defensive attention away from Ochocinco. We know Palmer is good. But for the Bengals to win the AFC North again and advance in the playoffs, Palmer will have to be special.

Clifton Brown is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at cliftonbrown@sportingnews.com.

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