By Tarik El-Bashir
DeAngelo Hall expects Sunday’s game against the undefeated Falcons to be the stiffest challenge the Redskins’ defense has encountered in 2012.
It’s also a prime opportunity for the veteran cornerback to bounce back from an uneven performance against the Buccaneers.
“Definitely,” he said, “this is the biggest test we will have faced so far this season.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan leads the league in passer rating (112.1) and is second in passing touchdowns (11). Wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones each have three touchdown receptions, as does tight end Tony Gonzalez. And then there’s 247-pound running back Michael Turner, who’s 15th in rushing yards with 257.
Combined, they form a formidable offense that’s scoring 31 points per game (3rd).
“It’s going to take all of us,” Hall said. “Their offense is rolling. They’re clicking. At certain points in the season, it happens like that, where everything goes right.”
“It will be our offense being to sustain drives and our pass rush being able to get in [Ryan’s] face,” Hall added. “It will be us in the back being able to cover. It’s the linebackers dropping into zone or playing man if they have to. It’s not one guy shutting someone down.”
That all said, Hall knows the spotlight will be on himself and fellow cornerback Josh Wilson. Not only because of big-play ability that White, Jones and Gonzalez possess, but also because both got burned by big plays on Tampa Bay scoring drives Sunday as the Bucs rallied from a 15-point deficit.
“You can play 60 perfect snaps, then one bad judge of a ball and the sky is falling down,“ Hall said. “It’s part of it. [Wilson] gave up a play, hey, go out there and make a play. I gave up a play, hey, got to go out there and make a play now. Luckily, we were able to pull the game and so it didn’t feel as bad coming out with the win. You can always critique things a little easier when you win.”
The consensus in the Redskins’ locker room is that the defense took a small step forward in Tampa. But there's clearly still much room for improvement from a unit that's yielded 11 passing touchdowns (32nd), 8.8 yards per pass attempt (30th) and 30.8 points per game (27th).
“We have to be better,” Hall said. “We all know that.”