I'm not saying they're gospel, but I like the ProFootballFocus.com grades. Those guys watch every player and every play and offer clinical evaluations of what players are doing relative to what they're supposed to be doing. I think, given a large enough sample size, we can use them to help us get a sense of who's playing well and who's not in the NFL.
So far this season, Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall ranks 95th overall out of the 99 cornerbacks PFF has evaluated. When you sort strictly by coverage grade (taking out penalties and performance against the run), Hall drops to 99th. Last year, PFF ranked Hall as the 66th-best cornerback in the league overall, 94th in coverage. And on Sunday, in the fourth quarter of a 27-12 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh, Hall lost his mind on an official and got ejected after costing his team 30 yards' worth of penalties.
My question is this: Why is this guy still on the Redskins? What, exactly, is the contribution that he's making?
It's not news that Hall can't cover. The Redskins spent this offseason trying to find ways to hide him -- moving him inside where they thought his supposed playmaking instincts might lead to something against slot receivers as opposed to exposing him on the outside, even using him at safety every now and then. They sold the idea to Hall as a cool way to jump-start the late portion of his career as some sort of Charles Woodson-type utility defensive back. But they haven't been able to hide him, in part because the rest of the secondary has fallen apart and in part because Hall just isn't playing very well.
He's known as a guy who gets beat but also makes plays, but that isn't really holding up anymore. He's got two interceptions this year after he had three last year. He's been credited with six pass breakups this year; there are 34 defensive backs in the league with more. On a team with better options, he probably wouldn't see the field. The Redskins don't have better options, but I still don't see why that should keep them from getting rid of him. It's hard to see how you could really damage your 32nd-ranked pass defense by cutting a guy who is, statistically, the worst cover corner in the league.
Especially if he's going to embarrass you. Especially if he's a nine-year veteran who needs to be restrained by actual team leaders London Fletcher and Lorenzo Alexander because he got so upset about an Emmanuel Sanders block (admittedly, a filthy one) that he felt the need to scream and curse out the officials. You can read in this Dan Steinberg blog post what Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said about Hall's meltdown Sunday, and what he said about a similarly costly and unprofessional outburst in last season's game against the Patriots. My question for Shanahan is what reason he still has to put up with it.
Would benching or dumping Hall make the secondary thinner? Of course it would. Would it also send a message to the younger players on the still-developing team that there are consequences for stupid, unprofessional behavior? Heck yeah it would, and that might be worth it at this point in the franchise's history.
I think Shanahan has nothing to lose and maybe something to gain if he decides he doesn't want Hall on his football team anymore. I think this is different from the Josh Morgan penalty against the Rams for a few reasons, mainly that it's not a first offense and that Morgan is making an obvious contribution to the team as a receiver and a blocker. If Hall can't cover anybody, can't break up a pass, averages three or four interceptions a year and can't be counted on to conduct himself with class and professionalism, I don't see what reason the Redskins have to keep him around.