- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It had the look of somebody cleaning out his locker. Several pairs of shoes lined up in front of the stall. A stack of gloves to one side, a pile of clothes to the other.

But DeAngelo Hall wasn’t packing up Monday morning, he was moving in.

It had been a whirlwind 12 days for Hall - waived by Oakland, signed by Washington, taught a new system on the fly, put on the field more than expected against Dallas, a pass intercepted in a defeat.

Now, finally, Hall had time to tidy up his space, hang up his practice gear and gather Post-it notes that included the cell phone number of fellow cornerback Carlos Rogers.

“It was refreshing just to feel like I was playing for something,” Hall said of his Redskins debut. “I already feel a part of this team. I’ve been here less than a week and I already feel more at home than I did in Oakland - and I was there since July and never felt that way. That’s a big thing - when you’re comfortable, you play a hell of a lot better.”

Hall, the most picked-on corner in the NFL through eight games, played 23 snaps against the Cowboys. The two-time Pro Bowl selection finished with two tackles and recorded his fourth interception of the season. His performance was exactly what the Redskins needed because Shawn Springs missed his fourth consecutive game with a calf injury.

And, it was exactly what Hall needed - a positive first step toward wiping The Oakland Debacle from other people’s minds - and his own.

The Hall-Redskins marriage is a fascinating subplot for the next six weeks. Washington can’t count on Springs until he returns to the field and can stay on the field.

Because the Redskins’ defense needs to blitz to pressure the passer, solid every-down coverage from Rogers, Hall and Fred Smoot is key if LaRon Landry continues to be their only deep help.

If Hall is more than serviceable the rest of the season, what’s the Redskins’ plan? It would be like them to rush judgment on Hall after a few games and initiate contract talks. But like they seem to be doing with quarterback Jason Campbell (which is puzzling), the Redskins seem inclined to have things play out, which is understandable.

Hall made a solid first impression with his defensive coaches.

After signing, Hall met with cornerbacks coach Jerry Gray and displayed extensive knowledge of the position.

“It was a good pace - wasn’t too fast, wasn’t too slow,” Hall said. “They threw it all at me. I learned regular, I learned nickel, a little bit of everything. Coach Gray and Coach [Greg] Blache get the credit because they got me ready. They put me in the film room and got me ready to play.”

Said Gray: “When we first talked, he talked like a veteran, and then I knew we could stretch the limit and not go vanilla. The more information he gave me, the more I could say, ‘We can do this, this and this,’ instead of me having to dig. … He absorbed a lot of information in Atlanta from [position coach Emmitt Thomas] because Emmitt is a brilliant guy.”

Gray’s focus with Hall in practice last week was “man turn” and “zone turn” technique. In man coverage, the Redskins want their corners to focus on the receiver; in zone coverage, they want them facing the quarterback to survey the field.

“It gets a lot of defensive backs in trouble,” Gray said. “I see it when a guy is playing zone. He should be outside the formation looking so he can have everything in front of [him]. The next thing you know, he turns his back and can’t see the field anymore. And when they’re playing man, they turn to the quarterback and lose their man.

“I’m not going to teach him how to run fast or the little things he’s already learned. But I can teach him little-big things that can help his game grow.”

It was in the run game that Hall made his first impact against Dallas. On third-and-4 at the Dallas 26, Hall lined up opposite receiver Terrell Owens. But he read run, slid away from tight end Tony Curtis and got an arm on running back Marion Barber to slow him down. Fred Smoot tackled Barber after a 3-yard gain.

“He was a solid tackler at Virginia Tech and that doesn’t stop just because you leave one place,” Gray said. “The good thing is that he’s never been denoted as a ‘cover corner’ - a guy who can cover the wideout but not be a part of the game. He understood what he was getting into here. You’re not going to be a one-type corner here.”

On the Cowboys’ next series, Hall played left corner against Owens for a third-and-3 at the Washington 27. At the snap, Owens two-handed Hall and ran what Gray called a “flat slant.” Quarterback Tony Romo double-pumped and threw behind Owens and Hall, who reacted to make the catch. It was his 21st pick in 66 career games.

“Superior reaction and catch,” coach Jim Zorn said.

Last week, Gray likened Hall’s arrival to an early Christmas present. The Redskins hope the energy of contending in a playoff race and playing for Gray can bring Hall back to Pro Bowl form.

And if the result are wins and consistent play by Hall, this could become a long-term relationship.

“He understands what he can do,” Gray said. “Having a chance to win, that’s what he’s excited about. He did that at Virginia Tech and he did that with Atlanta. Then, all of a sudden, the losing started and that really took a toll.”

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