ASHBURN — DeAngelo Hall is much looking forward to the six-week vacation he and his Washington Redskins teammates will have until the start of training camp.
“Some relaxation, some fun in the sun,” Hall said.
Yet as he walked off the field at Redskins Park on Wednesday following the team’s final offseason workout, the 13-year veteran also felt the urge to fast forward to July 28, the date of the Redskins’ first training camp practice in Richmond.
After spending 12 seasons as a cornerback, the 32-year-old Hall said he feels refreshed as he continues his full-time transition to safety. Hall embarked on the switch last season after the Redskins’ bye in Week 8. He didn’t return from a sprained right toe sustained in Week 3 against the New York Giants until Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints. The switch to safety helped minimize the strain on the toe since he no longer had to make as many sharp cuts required at cornerback.
The team also needed a boost at the position after inconsistent play from former safeties Trenton Robinson and Jeron Johnson in the absence of Duke Ihenacho, who broke his left wrist in the season opener.
Now, Hall has a full offseason and training camp at his disposal to learn the intricacies of his new position, something he is looking forward to when he resumes training camp.
“Playing safety has rejuvenated me,” Hall said on Wednesday. “Corner had gotten old and stale and became more like a job. I always said when it became like a job, it’s time for me to walk away. To be able to move to safety and change my thought process and perfect that, it’s been fun, rejuvenating. I come out to practice happy to be here and leaving like, ‘Man, I want some more reps’. Any time you get that kind of mindset man, I’m ready to go to training camp now.”
The three weeks of organized team activities, as well as the two mandatory minicamp practices, served as a good opportunity for Hall and Will Blackmon, who is also making the switch to safety after starting 11 games at cornerback last season, to grasp the responsibilities at their new position.
While the two have shown a strong ability to learn thus far, defensive backs coach Perry Fewell said the most beneficial reps are ahead of them at training camp, when contact is allowed and the players will be wearing pads.
“D-Hall has made a lot of progress,” Fewell said. “We would like to see more plays on the ball, but they don’t try to attack D-Hall as much as we’d like them to because he’s in the right spot. It’s still a learning process for Blackmon. I think he’s going to make the transition just fine, go into training camp, get some preseason games, and I think that will be his best experience.”
For Blackmon, the challenge has been narrowing his focus now that he has the entire defense in front of him. Blackmon also said he knows he needs to slow down his pace of play so he can understand his range and the different situations he’ll be facing.
“They told me I had to be like a professor in geometry but I majored in English,” Blackmon joked earlier in OTAs. “It’s frustrating at first because you want to make plays, make something happen right off the bat, but it’s a process. I think for me it was, ‘You need to slow down.’ My gift and my curse is I can see everything that’s going on. I saw too much. I saw trees. The waterboy. Tents. Then the ball.
“Even at nickel, I can see everything, but I know what I’m supposed to do. Here, I have to see everything but I have to communicate to the defensive backs. I have to know my run fits. There’s a lot of mental stuff, process-wise, [which] is much better now. I’m happy where I am.”
Throughout offseason workouts, Hall and veteran David Bruton, who signed with the Redskins in March after seven season with the Denver Broncos, have been penciled in as the starting safeties. Gruden likes the team’s depth at the position with Ihenacho and Blackmon, though he’ll be able to draw a more complete evaluation once training camp takes place.
“It’s hard [to evaluate without pads],” Gruden said. “But the big thing is, are they getting to the right spots? How are they reacting when the ball is in the air? How are filling in the running game? Are they in the right spots? And, so far, it has been a good battle. All the safeties have done some good things, quite frankly. It will play itself out once we get into the preseason games and the regular season.”