Monday, September 13, 2010

DeAngelo Hall Goes From Ostrasized Malcontent To Hero For The Washington Redskins

DeAngelo Hall has always been blessed with great football speed and high intelligence when it comes to playing the game of football. Perhaps it was this ability that led to him being coddled to the point he could do or say whatever he desired without fear of reprimand.

After a successful three year stint at Virginia Tech University, after a successful high school career in track and football in nearby Chesapeake, he decided to join the NFL after being named Second Team All-American as a junior. He had scored touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams for the Hokies in his NCAA career.

The Atlanta Falcons made him their first round draft choice in 2004 with the eighth overall selection. Though he played just ten games as a rookie, he found his way into the end zone off a 48 yard interception return, becoming the youngest player ever to have accomplished this feat. He quickly earned the respect of his foes for having that rare lock down ability few defensive backs posses.

He went to the Pro Bowl the next two seasons, scoring once in each season, and also won the 2005 NFL's "Fastest Man" race. He then began to complain openly about wanting a new contract. Feeling as if he were one of the top five cornerbacks in the league, he wanted to get paid like it. After scoring twice in 2007, he demanded to be traded from Atlanta.

Now perceived as a big mouth by some, some teams backed off his salary demands. The Oakland Raiders, however, did not. They offered him $70 million over seven years, with $25.5 million guaranteed. The Raiders also gave the Falcons second and fifth round draft picks for the privilege. Atlanta later traded those picks off to Washington and Dallas, who drafted wide receiver Devin Thomas and safety Michael Hamlin respectively.

Things continued to go poorly for Hall in Oakland. He was asked to play man to man defense more often, and did not rise to the challenge. He was expected to bookend All-Pro Nnamdi Asomugha to give them a upper echelon duo, but things did not work that way to the point that Oakland asked him to take a pay cut and Hall refused. Even though he has three interceptions and half a quarterback sack after eight games, the Raiders decided to release him from the team.

Going from a top draft pick to Pro Bowler to unemployed in just five years seemed to bring Hall back to earth. When the Redskins came calling a week later, he jumped at the chance and picked off two balls in seven games, starting in four of them.

Washington was so impressed by Hall's work ethic, they offered the restricted free agent $55 million over six years, with $24 million guaranteed. Though he dealt with a few nagging injuries in 2009, he still started 12 games and swiped four balls. He benched veteran Fred Smoot, and made a nice tandem with Carlos Rogers.

He played well despite the woes the team was suffering. The team went 8-8 in 2008, ranking sixth in the league in points allowed. They dropped to 18th the next year, and won just four games. The Redskins cleaned house in the front offices, as well as their coaching staff.

Now Hall is being asked to play in a 3-4 defense for the first time in his pro career. To make things more difficult, the Redskins outside linebackers are basically defensive ends with very little pass coverage abilities. They will generally be rushing the passer every time the opponent drops back to throw, thus giving Hall no help underneath.

This did not seem to bother him much Monday night versus the Dallas Cowboys. Though 31 passes were completed against the defense, it was mostly of the dink and dunk variety that only gained 282 yards and one score. While Dallas was busy exposing the underneath weaknesses, the Redskins were keeping them out of the end zone.

Under the previous incompetent coaching regime, Washington had gone the equivalent of three games without scoring a touchdown again ts Dallas. Now in the Mike Shanahan era, they were about to finish the first half with more of the same. That is until Hall decided to alter this momentum.

Dallas had seemed so intent on getting the ball back from the Redskins a few plays earlier, when Washington had the ball. As Washington seemed intent on burning out the clock, Dallas would have none of it and decided to burn time outs with under a minute to go.

Now with the ball, Dallas was on their side of the field but still intent of battling through their struggles to score. As the clock was nearing zero, Tony Romo pitched the ball to running back Tashard Choice while scrambling. Instead of going down, Choice decided to take on a rapidly approaching Hall.

Though just 26-years old, Hall is in his seventh year as an NFL player and certainly a veteran. He set up Choice, popped him with a solid hit, then stripped the ball free from the Cowboys arms. Scooping up the now loose ball, Hall floated 32 yards into the end zone before flipping for joy, having stopped the touchdown-less streak and providing his team a lead that ultimately provided the winning margin.

It was the Redskins first win over Dallas since 2008, and is a moment the team can put in their history books next to other legendary moments when the greatest rivalry in the NFL for the last 40 years occurred.

Hew has 26 career interceptions, but just a few players have had more than him since 2005. Despite this production, he found his way off of two teams already. Now he is home, close to his family and friends in an arrangement that seems to fit well between player and franchise. At the very least, DeAngelo Hall has found his way into the teams lore by helping defeat their most hated rival.

1 comment:

afrankangle said...

Congrats on beating your hated rival!