- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2009

As the owner of a new seven-year, $70 million contract, DeAngelo Hall expected whispers in the Oakland Raiders’ locker room last offseason.

Hall didn’t expect the intensity of emotion and range of views that greeted him and the signings of Javon Walker and Gibril Wilson.

“There were a lot of different emotions between the guys who were already there and us new guys,” Hall said. “You could definitely sense the resentment and animosity.”

Hall’s brief Raiders experience - locker-room politics, training-camp injury, brutal opening-game performance and a midseason release - was forgettable.

His brief Washington Redskins experience - including a six-year, $55 million contract - has been the opposite because of how seamless teammates and coaches made his transition.

“From the first day I walked into the room, it was crazy,” Hall said. “I had played against some of the guys in college and came into the draft with some of them. I felt like I was embraced from the moment they considered bringing me in.”

Hall returned the favor with strong play. He became a starter four weeks after signing and posted totals of 25 tackles, two interceptions and eight pass breakups - a performance that convinced the Redskins to release oft-injured veteran Shawn Springs and go with Hall and Carlos Rogers as the starting cornerbacks.

Hall’s seven-week orientation to the Redskins last year is paying a dividend this year. Instead of having to grasp a new system, Hall is learning what the other defensive backs do on each snap and getting time covering the slot receiver, a role Springs held.

“He’s learning new positions, and we’re doing a lot of stuff to give him chances to be around the ball,” secondary coach Jerry Gray said. “Right now, he doesn’t have to think he’s going through the crash course he did last year when it was all catch-up and reaction. I know who he is and what he can do.”

Hall provides a dimension the Redskins have lacked for years - a cornerback capable of scoring touchdowns or providing great field position.

Since 2000, the Redskins have returned only five interceptions for touchdowns, and just one (Rogers in 2007) came from a cornerback.

Hall has returned his 22 interceptions an average of 21.6 yards and scored two touchdowns.

“Just in these past OTAs, I’ve seen him get his hands on the ball, and those weren’t easy interceptions,” defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery said. “He’s definitely going to help us out.”

Working Hall in the slot on passing downs in particular could help the Redskins out. Springs excelled in playing a variety of styles to limit routes down the middle of the field. Hall has never covered the slot position.

“The type of person he is, he’s always up for the challenge,” Gray said. “He wants to see if he can do those types of things.”

Said Hall: “On third down, everybody knows the ball goes inside. That’s why Wes Welker finished with 100 catches. The slot receivers are getting the ball, and some teams put their best receivers in the slot, and as a defense we have to put their best guys inside. It’s my first time jumping inside, but I love the chance to get the ball.”

The benefit of OTAs is to experiment with players at different positions on the field without having to worry about a game plan, and Hall can gamble on certain plays without having to worry about the result.

The process will continue in training camp and preseason, which was when Hall’s season was derailed in Oakland.

Hall said a torn ligament in his hand limited him to a handful of snaps. He did not play in two games. Playing catch-up, he struggled in the Raiders’ press-man scheme, and the team released him after eight games. Oakland paid Hall $8 million for half a season’s work.

“The scheme just didn’t fit me,” he said. “It wasn’t my style.”

But back in a scheme that embraces playing “off coverage,” which allows the cornerback to see both the receiver and quarterback, Hall is expected to be a cornerstone of the revamped defense.

“He’s doing things you want from an All-Pro corner,” Gray said. “I’ve been around a lot of good, All-Pro corners, and he has those types of traits.”

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