- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

A little more than a minute remained in the first half last weekend. A kickoff return and two plays later, the Washington Redskins had the ball at the Philadelphia Eagles’ 30. Washington called its second timeout with 21 seconds left.

With a 48-yard field goal attempt in hand, the Redskins had two basic choices: advance another short distance to set up an easier field goal and one shot at the end zone, or take two deep shots and trust kicker John Hall to make the 48-yarder.

In recent years, as a series of ill-equipped kickers paraded through the organization, the first option might have been all but dictated. On Sunday, though, coach Steve Spurrier was able to throw deep to fullback Rock Cartwright and wide receiver Rod Gardner, missing both times, and Hall booted through the 48-yarder.

“I think Coach has a lot of confidence in John,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said yesterday when asked about that series. “John has done the things to show we should have confidence in him. It’s a great luxury to have.”

In his first Redskins season, Hall has more attempts from 40 or more yards (10) and more from 50 or more (five) than any other NFL kicker. Trailing in the former category is Jacksonville’s Seth Marler (eight), while Pittsburgh’s Kris Brown is the only other kicker with even three attempts from 50 or more.

In essence, Hall’s strong leg allows Spurrier, who wanted to try a 58-yarder against the New York Giants, to extend his gunslinging mentality to special teams. And on offense, Hall cleaning up on fourth down lets Washington be more aggressive on downs one through three. A player who doesn’t play offense is having an impact on how the Fun ‘n’ Gun operates.

“He’s had a huge impact,” Jackson said with a smile, “and I hope he continues to do so.”

Spurrier, as usual, was tough to pin down when asked if Hall’s leg influences his offensive decisions.

He first said nice weather (no wind) played a role in having Hall attempt so many long field goals. Asked about Sunday’s scenario before the half, Spurrier talked about needing to execute better on deep attempts. When pressed, he said a short attempt to the middle of the field would have precluded another shot at the end zone (which wasn’t necessarily true, given the remaining timeout).

Hall, for his part, acknowledged he hasn’t ever tried so many long field goals in such a short period. But he added he is giving no thought to his coach’s mindset.

“They brought me in and I just do whatever they want,” Hall said. “That’s the way I look at it. I don’t get my feathers ruffled about it.”

Clearly Hall, along with former New York Jets teammate Laveranues Coles, can be categorized among the Redskins’ personnel triumphs this offseason. He leads the NFC with 45 points and has made every field goal try under 40 yards. His accuracy from short range has allowed Washington, with a solid 60 percent touchdown average inside the 20, to come away with points every time it has entered the red zone.

Meanwhile, Hall is 6-for-10 from above 40 yards. Each miss was at least 48 yards, with one block and one try off a goal post.

That said, going 12-for-16 overall (75 percent) isn’t sparkling. And it is in line with the oft-criticized 73.4 career clip Hall carried to Washington. But given that he has made so many long field goals (as well as a game-winning 33-yarder in the final seconds of the opener), he has validated the five-year, $7.1million contract he signed.

“I’ve always felt this way: Kicking in Giants Stadium was a tough situation for him,” special teams coach Mike Stock said of Hall’s six-year Jets tenure. “But he’s a good, solid kicker. Now his percentages aren’t as high as maybe some other kickers. Some of the people in the press saw we signed this guy and we were raving about him [while] they weren’t overly enthusiastic. But we felt good about it.”

Asked whether he has proved anything to critics, Hall replied: “I don’t care. It’s of no consequence. I want to be on a team that’s going to win. We all want that. If people have stuff to say, they can say it. I’m not listening.”

The Redskins also have been impressed with Hall’s kickoffs (his three touchbacks trail only St. Louis’ Jeff Wilkins in the NFC) and his fearless tackling on returns. But there’s no question about his greatest value to the first team in NFL history to open with five straight decisions of three or fewer points.

“Obviously, we’d like to score touchdowns every time we’re down there,” Jackson said. “But it’s good to know that if we miss on something, we have a guy who can bail us out by making field goals.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide