They say that the sideline is a defender’s best friend. Old Man Sideline never missed a tackle or blew a coverage.
DeAngelo Hall could be missing his best friend a lot this season.
The veteran cornerback, who is entering his entering his ninth season, has been getting a great deal of work at the slot cornerback position after having played on the outside for most of his career.
“I'm getting a lot of reps out there as the nickel,” Hall said. “I'm feeling comfortable I'm feeling good.”
Calling the slot corner the “nickel” makes it sound like it’s a substitute position that should be filled by a lesser player. That used to be the case. However, the game has changed with teams going into three-wide sets on first and 10 about as often as they do on third and eight.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films wrote the following
Keep in mind teams also run three-wide groups in normal down and distance situations as a regular feature of their offense. What burden does that place on the defense, as it specifically relates to the slot corner? It means he has three responsibilities: cover man (the most apparent), blitzer and run defender (not talked about enough). Those are three distinct skill sets, but they are all required of a slot corner.
In short, the position can’t be an afterthought. No longer can you get away with throwing your third-best cornerback out there and hoping that he can hold it down. That’s what the Redskins tried to last year by putting Kevin Barnes in the slot. The results were mixed at best. Barnes was benched late in the year in favor of Byron Westbrook, who is no longer with the team.
Hall recognizes the challenge involved in the playing the slot including the loss of the reliable chalk line.
“There's a lot more room out there is the slot,” he said. “The receiver's got two ways to go, you've got to cover the whole field as opposed to playing corner where you can go, that's the sideline.”
“You can see your friend over there, the sideline, you've got help sometimes. It's definitely a lot easier as opposed to playing nickel but we've got a lot of things with the nickel where you've got a chance to go our and have some fun, too.”
Among the fun things Hall will get to do if he plays the slot would be, as Cosell noted, blitzing the quarterback.
“I don't have but one career sack so it's going to be interesting to see if I get around the quarterback,” said Hall.
It also will be interesting to see how this plays out. The teams of the NFC East and many of the rest of the teams on the Redskins schedule are loaded at receiver and the Redskins are going to need to put their cornerbacks in spots that best utilize their talents. If that means teaching a veteran like Hall new tricks that is what they will need to do.