Hate him or love him, DeAngelo Hall has been a staple for the Washington Redskins for the last 10 years.
The 33-year-old enters training camp as the longest-tenured player on the Skins' opening roster, as the former Virginia Tech standout embarks on his 14th season in the NFL.
As Mike Jones of the Washington Post points out in this incredibly insightful piece about Hall's future in Washington — the age has taken an obvious toll on the veteran's body. Injuries have cut the last three seasons short for the seasoned defensive back and he enters training camp on the PUP list as he rehabs from last season's torn ACL.
While the future off the field remains bright for Hall when his football career inevitably comes to an end — there's a yearning desire to play at least another season. As Jones mentions, Hall established himself as a top-tier cornerback over the first 10 seasons, averaging 4.3 interceptions per season while earning three Pro Bowl selections. He currently leads all active NFL players with 43 interceptions.
In a league where most careers are limited to 2-3 years, it's remarkable Hall has made it this far. Last season, he made the transition from cornerback to safety and showed promise, but it was always a small sample size because of the recurring injuries. As last year came to an end, there were serious doubts in Hall's mind about his future in the NFL.
Jones is about as dialed-in with the Skins as anyone in the NFL — and was able to get honest and candid feelings from the once controversial shutdown corner.
"Are they going to give me an opportunity," Hall told Jones. "Am I going to be on the street hurt, trying to find a job? Nobody wants, after play in this league for 14 years, to be on the street looking for a job while you're hurt."
As Jones notes, Hall has always expressed interest in coaching and media work in his post-football life. He's tested analyst duties with media outlets in the offseason and has watched closely as former NFL players transition to roles as talent evaluators and general managers.
But now, Hall has transitioned from the fiery bad boy to a veteran leader in the Skins' locker room. He thinks he has enough in the tank to make at least one more run.
"It ain't about the money, ain't about getting rich," Hall told the Washington Post. "I did that already. I just love this game… I feel like I'm so close to a lot fo my goals. Seeing plays I know I could have made and not being able to help my teammates win, it's really frustrating. But it's what brings me back."
Factors in play
Training camp performance
The days of Hall coasting through the smoldering Richmond heat while nursing an injury or getting a "veteran break" are long gone. He no longer has the comfort of knowing he's locked into the 53-man roster. Hall needs to get on the field as soon as possible — and prove to the coaching staff he deserves to be on this team and can help them win. I really think he needs to shine and have a few big moments. There's little room for error at this point. As Hall himself said, he's no different than an undrafted rookie trying to catch the eye of the coaching staff.
"You're an old dog," Hall said in the Washington Post piece. "It's very similar to an undrafted guy or low-round guy who's got a lot fo guys in front of him. Show some stuff and move up. I don't want any handouts or favors. I want to get mine. I'm hyped. But I still don't know how everything's going to work out."
This mentality changes how Hall could be used. He might be asked to fill in on special teams. There's a good chance he will be asked to play deep into preseason games, where in the past, he watched comfortably on the sidelines after the first 30 minutes.
The depth chart
Skins fans are used to the safety spot being filled with a bunch of washed-up players who shouldn't be NFL starters, so in past seasons, there was a real opportunity for Hall to gain a valuable spot. This season? It appears there is some true talent back there for the first time in a long time, with Su'a Cravens making the full-time transition to SS after a stellar rookie campaign, and veteran D.J. Swearinger penciled in the FS spot after an impressive season in Arizona. Hall's best chance will be to fill-in as Swearinger's back-up, while also seeing the field in select packages and even on special teams. Wll Blackmon is another veteran who will be competing with Hall and has played well recently. I think it's one or the other. No room for two old-school defensive backs in the final year or two of their careers.
The fourth-man under consideration will be Deshazor Everett — who has shown promise at times heading into his third season. Everett is also a proven special teams contributor which could give him a leg up. Undrafted rookie Fish Smithson clearly wins the Redskins' name contest, but it's a long shot he will make the roster as the fifth man competing for what will end up being two or three roster spots.
Hall's standing within the organization is clearly his biggest asset. He has a ton of rapport with owner Daniel Snyder, team president Bruce Allen and head coach Jay Gruden. He's the dude that will stand up and give locker room speeches while unselfishly taking young players aside to teach them some of his secrets. He has a chance to emerge as the true veteran leader of this team — but will that be enough? Hall has to at least give the coaching staff hope when it comes to on-field production.
"He's kind of been a mainstay here and he kind of keeps the boat from sinking from time to time," Redskins' head coach Jay Gruden told the Washington Post. "There's some volatile people in that defensive back room from time to time and he's a calming guy, if you can believe that. Hopefully we'll be able to get him back at a later date, but if we don't have him back when we want to, he'll at least be in the room and still have a major influence on the team and the defense."
That doesn't sound like a coach who has plans on getting rid of Hall right now — but let's be real — it's a business where winning is the premium. It's amazing to hear all of this positive stuff about a guy who was once hated by just about everyone in the NFL and their collective fan bases, now let's see what he has left has a player.
So does Hall make final 53?
At this point, I really see this as a 50/50 chance. As I said before — Hall has to do enough to separate from the pack. If the former Hokie can't get on the field as he comes back from the injury, there's no way he makes the team. It will be fun to watch and I'm obviously pulling for the guy.