Washington Redskins: Demaryius Thomas

Friday Conversation: DeAngelo Hall

November, 1, 2013
Washington Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall has returned two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns; he's also played well against the best receivers in the NFL. If his second half is like his first, Hall could be headed to his fourth Pro Bowl.

How do you feel you’re playing this year compared to your Pro Bowl years?

DeAngelo Hall: I feel I’m playing good. It’s a tough question to answer. There are a lot of games left. The end result is I want to win games and we haven’t been doing that. But at the halfway point I feel I’ve done a good job. I saw Jerry Jones’ comment that Deion [Sanders] could shut Calvin [Johnson] down; anybody who puts their mind to it has a chance. I felt like [Brandon] Carr, I don’t know if he was scared of the man or what. He came out against us and played like a Pro Bowler. He got out there and looked timid or the scheme wasn’t devised for him to make plays. I haven’t watched the [whole] game and saw the end result and saw the one slant that I picked off [against Johnson] that he took 80 yards [against Dallas]. I feel good. The guys I’ve had to cover this season is nothing short of a who’s-who list of receivers.

To me it looks like you’re playing better.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsPlaying in his 10th NFL season, DeAngelo Hall has been holding his own against some of the best receivers in the game.
Hall: I feel like I am. Like I said it’s hard to say great when you don’t win games. As good as Denver was, as good as a lot of other games were …. Chicago I felt I played great; we won the game. I didn’t have an interception, a couple pass break-ups, I wasn’t around the ball a lot. I held my own against a damn good receiver, but we won the game. I’ve been in the league long enough. I made a lot of Pro Bowls and had individual success, made a lot of money. I want to win. You get defined by winning and I want to win more than anything now. That’s my focus.

You had to take a pay cut in the offseason. Your attitude seems good and you’re playing well. Is there a part of you that is bothered by having to do this?

Hall: I don’t know if I took a pay cut for my performance. I like to think not. The cornerback inside me says that’s not why. Other things made that happen. The market wasn’t what I thought it was and I felt I could still play better than a lot of cornerbacks in this league, so I wanted to come back. I felt comfortable and it was somewhere they’d use me the right way. I think after that [season-ending] Dallas game, they said, ‘You’re not gonna play nickel and do all the other stuff, play safety; we want you go to out there and lock down a guy.’ I was like, I like that. To have an opportunity to do that again I relish that. It was a no-brainer to come back here. The money will take care of itself.

I know the reasons for the pay cut are different, but I’ve still seen other guys that’s it’s affected.

Hall: You ask me that five years ago and my answer would have been different. I’m a much wiser man than I was then. I’m not bitching and complaining. I had a terrible migraine [Thursday] and they wanted me to take the day off. I missed a little bit of the stretching. I still came out and practiced. Mike [Shanahan] was like, "Get back inside and relax." I was like, "No, I want to be out here for these guys." I have to show them I care about this and I want to win games. It’s part of the maturation process. A couple years ago you give me a day off I’ll take it, regardless of the situation. My head is still banging. I had to come and work with these guys and implement the game plan.

What’s underappreciated about your game?

Hall: I don’t know, I don’t know… A lot of people think I can’t tackle. I feel I’m one of the best tackling corners there is in the league.

I thought that’s what you’d say. I don’t get it, but that’s what I hear about you, too.

Hall: I hear it, too. I don’t know if it’s the stigma of corners can’t tackle, so they group me in there, too. But I feel I’m a darn good tackler. So that’s something underappreciated. I guess my physicalness even at the line, checking receivers. I’m 5-10, 5-11, 190 pounds and there’s no way I should win against Calvin and Dez [Bryant] and Demaryius [Thomas] and all the other big guys and I’m able to hold my own.

Of the receivers you’ve played, who’s the toughest?

Hall: It’s hard. I don’t want to disrespect anybody. From Jordy Nelson to Dez to Calvin to Demaryius to Brandon [Marshall], they all pose different challenges. With Brandon, I didn’t press as much because he uses a technique at the line. He’ll let you jam him and he’ll pull himself through. I didn’t want to play as physical with him as I did a lot of the other guys. They’re all beasts at what they do. Calvin, they wanted me to do something. I tried it one time and I said, "Hey, that aint’ gonna work, this dude is too big; I can’t go punk him and throw him around in Cover 2." That dude’s just shrugging me off so I have to go back to the drawing board. They’re all great receivers who can be game-breakers. If I had to vote all of them to the Pro Bowl I would. They’re all beasts.

Redskins Film Review: Defense

October, 30, 2013
  1. Through three quarters the defense was outstanding. They did what they needed to do: create turnovers; play sound, disciplined coverage (with minimal exceptions) and force long drives. It’s difficult to force three-and-outs with Denver so any time the Broncos punt it’s a win. And any time you cause four turnovers you should win. The offense kept putting the defense in bad spots in the third quarter and certainly they got worn down. But they also allowed scoring drives of 11 and 16 in consecutive series, before the offense had imploded. It’s no shame to surrender scoring drives to Denver, but the defense had a chance to get off the field a couple times and failed. They needed to play perfect and that’s asking a lot.
  2. Corner DeAngelo Hall is playing more consistent than when he made the Pro Bowl after the 2010 season. Hall did an outstanding job against receiver Demaryius Thomas (35 of his 75 yards came off a screen pass). Hall played physical against him leading to two interceptions. On the first, which he returned for a score, Hall jammed him and Thomas fell. Easy pick. On the second, Hall played tight man coverage and when the wobbly pass was coming down, Hall turned briefly. Then he turned back to Thomas and simply took the ball away. Where would this team be without Hall?
  3. There was a stark contrast between the quarterbacks in the pocket, as there should be given Peyton Manning’s experience and talent level. Robert Griffin III will never reach that same level in the pocket; they’re just different quarterbacks. But Griffin can improve and become good. Anyway, Manning does a tremendous job anticipating routes and coverages. It’s why he rarely gets hit. He had one route in which he dumped the ball to what looked to be his third target, but unloaded it in 2.0 seconds. When Griffin would get hit, at least 2.5 seconds had usually elapsed.
  4. Another time Manning connected with Wes Welker on a 16-yard pass over the middle. As Manning starts to throw, Welker is behind two Redskins in zone coverage (Josh Wilson and Nick Barnett) and not open. By the time Welker reaches the open middle, the ball is there. Great example of anticipation and throwing guys open. Of course, Manning’s anticipation got him in trouble on Jordan Pugh’s interception. E.J. Biggers covered Welker one-on-one at the line with Pugh over the top. Manning anticipated a win and didn’t hesitate; Welker didn’t win -- Biggers did a great job on this play -- but if you have receivers you trust to win these matchups, then you let it go. More often than not you will be rewarded.
  5. Really liked how end Stephen Bowen played, especially with a bad knee. Bowen does an excellent job of staying low before the snap, enabling him to play with more power and shoot through faster. On a three-yard Knowshon Moreno run in the second quarter, Bowen took on a double team. He stayed low and held his ground, with his legs more outstretched than usual and his knees almost touching the ground. Linebacker Perry Riley stayed free because of it and made the tackle, along with Rob Jackson. But Bowen made the play. Another time he stayed low as he slanted to the right, causing disruption on a run to the left that end Jarvis Jenkins turned into a zero-yard run.
  6. Denver runs an awful lot of picks; they weren’t illegal and they weren’t always effective. But it’s how Welker scored the first touchdown. Thomas ran at Wilson, playing man coverage in the slot against Welker, who was then wide open for an easy six-yard score. Thomas played it almost like a pick-and-roll, turning and extending his hands for the pass. Wilson avoided some of these screens other times, going underneath. But rookie corner David Amerson got caught too over the top and had to widen his depth to avoid the screen, leading to a 19-yard catch-and-run by Eric Decker.
  7. By the way, Amerson did a good job on Decker. Manning tested him twice in a row earlier in that series with two deep passes. But Amerson played tight coverage and Decker wasn’t open.
  8. Give Manning enough plays, he will hurt you eventually. He caught Washington on a slot corner blitz on the 35-yard screen touchdown pass to Thomas, who had three blockers to handle three defenders. On the 35-yard screen for a touchdown to Moreno, the Redskins had Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins in at tackle. My wonder: If Barry Cofield and Bowen had been in, would they have noticed the screen earlier? Baker and Jenkins were intent on getting to Manning; both tackles had strong moments at other points, by the way. Still, the only person who recognized it was linebacker Perry Riley, but when he ducked around two blockers and forced Moreno back inside, no one was there. Manning also caught Washington with one defensive back at the goal line (Jose Gumbs) on the fourth-and-1 touchdown pass to tight end Joel Dreessen early in the fourth, tying the score.
  9. Bacarri Rambo played more aggressive and decisive than at any point since camp opened. Jose Gumbs is good to have on special teams.
  10. Aside from one play, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo had quiet days (though Orakpo also had a batted pass that forced a field goal). Manning neutralized them with quick throws (he also got Kerrigan to jump offsides on a hard count, taking it from third-and-7 from the Washington 25 in the third quarter).
  11. On a third-and-10 late in the third quarter, the Broncos got away with two holds. Bowen and Cofield ran a perfect stunt, with Bowen crashing into the center to free up Cofield. But as Cofield runs past the left guard, as he falls, grabs his jersey. Meanwhile, the center, as he’s going to the ground, tugs Bowen’s jersey with his right hand. It slowed them down enough to enable Manning to complete a 13-yard pass to Welker en route to a game-tying touchdown.

Redskins' D can learn from Colts

October, 24, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The supposed blueprint was revealed Sunday night when the Indianapolis Colts shut down the Denver Broncos. They made quarterback Peyton Manning look bad.

There's just two problems: The Colts did do a terrific job, yet the Broncos still scored 30 points and had the ball with a chance to drive the field for the lead. And Manning, while more mortal than other games, still managed 386 passing yards and three touchdown passes.

Still, the Colts held Denver to a season-low point total in their 39-33 victory. In the first six games Denver had scored 40 or more points four times -- and more than 50 twice. Manning has thrown 25 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.

“He's one of the best, if not the best, that ever played the game,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.

[+] EnlargeRobert Mathis
Thomas J. Russo/USA TODAY SportsRobert Mathis and the Colts were able to sack Broncos QB Peyton Manning four times on Sunday.
Still, the Colts beat him. Here's what the Colts did well:

Be physical with the receivers

The Redskins have done a solid job in recent weeks at disrupting the timing of receivers. At times they'll jam immediately off the line. Other times they'll let them run a couple yards then get their hands on them. That's what Indianapolis did Sunday. The Colts did not play press coverage the whole game, but they did cover well most of the night; downfield passes were always contested with tight coverage.

That's why Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said one key is to “try to win one-on-one matchups.”

It'll help if Washington can at least apply solid pressure with its four-man rush. With safety Brandon Meriweather suspended and safety Reed Doughty likely questionable because of his concussion, the Redskins will be thin at that spot. To put one safety deep in this situation would be difficult, though E.J. Biggers' speed allows him to cover a lot of ground -- which is why they'll use the corner at safety, likely with three other corners.

Indianapolis also did a good job being disciplined in coverage and tackling after the catch. Also, the corners understood where their help was on plays, something that could be trickier for Washington if it must incorporate inexperienced safeties.

The coverage ploy worked great for three quarters Sunday. But it's hard to stop this offense all game. Of Denver's top seven plays in terms of yards gained, six occurred in the fourth quarter and represented 186 of their 429 total yards.

Keep disguising coverages

It's obviously difficult to confuse Manning, one of the smartest quarterbacks in history. But it can happen.

On a second-and-10 in the first half, the Colts showed a two-deep look and what appeared to be man coverage. That's not surprising; it's a look they showed often. The left outside linebacker covered tight end Julius Thomas off the line with the left corner playing off on receiver Eric Decker. Then Decker broke inside and, as Manning readied to throw, the Colts revealed zone coverage with the linebacker, Jerrell Freeman, breaking off Thomas and deflecting the pass.

"If he sees something and it looks different he can find a weakness," Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. "But if we're showing the same thing and we're playing a bunch of different things out of it, hopefully we can fool them a couple times. Indy did the same thing. They attacked with their front and in the back end everything looked the same.”

Field position

Denver had 17 drives against the Colts, but 11 were from their own 20 or worse. And six were inside the 20. The Broncos scored only 10 points on these drives 11 drives while 23 were scored when they started a drive outside their own 35-yard line.

That, of course, means the Redskins' special teams would have to perform better than they have the past two games when they've allowed two punt returns for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return.

In the past two games combined, the Redskins' opponents have had 23 possessions; nine have been at their own 35 or better with eight at the 20 or worse.


It's not just about hitting Manning or sacking him. Both can be difficult because of how quickly he delivers the ball. In the first half Sunday, the Colts did a good job of pinching the pocket, more often than not using four-man rushes. They'd send the occasional blitz, or stunt the outside linebackers to the middle. But, mostly, it was about four rushers (who also did a good job against the run, using some stunts to offset being forced into six-man boxes because of the three-receiver sets).

Indianapolis applied pressure inside, too, preventing Manning from stepping into his throws -- and leading to passes losing steam in the end.

“You don't want him to step up and put everything into his throws,” Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “You don't want him to have a comfortable pocket to sit in either. So getting that collapse and getting a good push, especially from the interior guys, will be key.”

But be warned: Manning twice in the fourth quarter stepped up into the pocket, through a gap in the rush, and completed a 49-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas and, two plays, later a 31-yarder to him for a touchdown. Manning is not a running quarterback; he's also not a statue.

Still, as Wilson said, “You don't let Peyton sit there and pick you apart. You have to move him around. He doesn't like to do that.”

Linebacker Robert Mathis had two sacks and four quarterback hurries. On one of his sacks, he just beat left tackle Chris Clark with speed around the edge, with Manning using play-action. Another time, out of a two-point stance, Mathis launched into Clark's chest and drove him back for a pressure. He also tried some spin moves inside as Clark occasionally set too wide despite having help from the back. Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo will need to take advantage.

“The Colts did a good job of getting some pressure on him,” Haslett said. “That's the key to the game. That [and] stopping the run.”