The NFL is a pressure-packed environment with players fighting every day to keep their jobs and to win games. But some are under the gun more than others. Between now and the start of training camp we’ll take a look at the players who are in the spotlight and under the most pressure to perform. Earlier we looked at Brian Orakpo and today it’s DeAngelo Hall.
DeAngelo Hall has had many memorable moments with the Redskins. In the 2010 season opener he forced and then scooped up a fumble and ran it into the end zone for the Redskins’ only touchdown in a win over Dallas. Later that year he picked off four Jay Cutler passes, returning one of them for a TD that was the winning margin in that game.
The memories are not always so pleasant. The two enduring images of Hall last year are of him grabbing Dez Bryant’s facemask after giving up a big fourth-down completion that set up the game-winning field goal for Dallas and of him watching while the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski broke away from two tacklers and rumbled down the sideline.
Hall is a playmaker and he makes plays that help both teams. He also is the Redskins No. 1 cornerback and he is making $6 million this year. His salary cap number would be higher but the Redskins paid him a big chunk of money in 2010. That was part of the reason they were hit with the $36 million salary cap penalty this year and next.
The Redskins are looking at moving him to slot corner. In the past, that would be considered a step down from playing on the outside, as teams would go with three wide receivers only on passing down. But as teams go the three- and four-receiver sets in just about any down and distance, the “nickel” position has become a starting job. In some ways, it is more challenging than playing on the outside.
“There's a lot more room out there is the slot,” Hall said during minicamp last month. “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.”
Things will be a lot more fun if he can pick off some more passes. He had the one great game against the Bears but playing nearly every snap in the other 31 games in the past two years he has a total of five interceptions. That’s OK if you’re a lockdown corner who has opposing quarterbacks afraid to throw in your direction It’s not nearly enough if your game is based on getting takeaways.
This could be a make or break year for Hall. His salary ticks up to $7.5 million next year and it goes to $9 million in 2014. If his interception totals don’t climb with his salary the Redskins could go looking for other options.