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Additional Responsibilities Beneficial To DeAngelo Hall, Secondary

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – When the Washington Redskins decided in the offseason to make sure all of their cornerbacks could also play the nickel – a reduced role most veterans balk at embracing – new defensive backs coach Raheem Morris found a clever way to sell the move to DeAngelo Hall.

Hall

Morris began his professional coaching career in 2001 as a defensive assistant with Tampa Bay, working with, at that time, one of the best young cornerbacks in the league in Ronde Barber. Nearly a dozen years later, Barber still averages three interceptions and over 70 tackles a season – and he also has not missed a game, a streak Morris attributed to Barber’s shift in responsibilities.

Hall listened.

“Having the ability to teach those guys that, you can go into a game plan and really get detail-specific of what you want to cover who, and you want to matchup with who, and you don’t worry about it, you don’t blink,” Morris said. “With the ability to learn those assignments, you can rotate those guys in at safety. You can rotate those guys all over the field. Really, we’ve got to be interchangeable parts. I think that creates the complexity as well as the detail that you want in the defense in order to get what you want to get accomplished on defense.”

The Redskins took a jump in their pass defense last year, allowing 40 fewer yards a game by air than they did in 2010. With an energetic young coach leading the secondary and a rash of offseason signings to complement Hall and fellow starting cornerback Josh Wilson, the approach is to continue to limit the proliferation of record-setting, pass-first offenses in the NFL.

Hall had just three interceptions last season, his fewest since he had two for Atlanta in 2004, his rookie year. Wilson and Kevin Barnes, the team’s primary nickelback last season, each had two; the team, as a whole, had only 13 interceptions, putting it in the bottom third of league defenses in the category.

The Redskins also signed Cedric Griffin, who had eight interceptions in six seasons with Minnesota, and will enter training camp with rookies Robert Crawford and Chase Minnifield among those fighting to make the roster and earn playing time.

Hall wouldn’t move to the position on a full-time basis; the Redskins will likely alternate responsibilities given the opponent, the match-up and the game situation. But he has embraced the possibility, perhaps later in his career.

“Any time I can get around the ball, I feel like I’ve got a chance to get it, whether it’s forcing a fumble or disrupting some guys on pass rushing or things like that,” Hall said. “It’s definitely a lot easier to go out there and play the corner than the nickel, but we do so much things with the nickel that you’ve kind of got a chance to go out there and have some fun, too.”

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