The Outsider: How DeAngelo Hall shut down Dez Bryant, what he faces against the Bears

October 16, 2013

DeAngelo Hall has been the target of much criticism from Redskins fans over the past few seasons. Some of it has been merited, some hasn’t. He was released back in March due to him not playing to his $8 million price tag and the Redskins salary cap penalty. But perhaps one of the best moves Washington made this offseason was to bring him back on a much cheaper one-year deal.

Hall has been much more solid for Washington this season and has played at a very high level of late. This past Sunday might have been Hall’s best game in a Redskins uniform. He faced Dallas Cowboys star wide receiver Dez Bryant for much of the game and kept him quiet for the most part. Bryant was reduced to quick timing routes for the majority of his receptions, and was challenged hard by Hall on each one. Hall put out a statement on Bryant’s first reception, setting the tone for the rest of the game.


Bryant runs a quick stop route against Hall, who is in off coverage. Hall breaks quickly on the ball the moment he spots Romo winding up to throw.


Bryant makes the catch because the ball is delivered on time, but Hall runs him over as he tackles him. From that point on, the message was clear to Bryant. Hall was going to be tight to him and not going to make things easy for him.

That restricted to Cowboys to quick timing routes if they wanted to get the ball in Bryant’s hands. Even then, Hall was still very close to breaking up the play.


Here we see Hall covering Bryant on a slant pattern.


Romo risks the throw despite Hall being tight in coverage. Bryant just manages to shield the ball from Hall, who does his best to fight to break up the pass. Bryant pulls in the reception but is tackled immediately.

Dallas then tried a quick out-breaking comeback route.


Once again, this throw is all about the timing. With Hall in off coverage, if Romo times the throw with the break of the receiver, Hall shouldn’t be able to make the play.


But Hall breaks so quickly that he gets a hand on the ball. Bryant was able to pull in the catch, but was again tackled before he could pick up any extra yards. These throws were starting to get too risky for Dallas. Hall was reading and breaking on them too quickly. Dallas went back to the slant route.


But this time Hall was too tight in the coverage and managed to stop Bryant from pulling in the catch.

Hall kept Bryant fairly quiet after that, only giving up a crossing route after getting caught up in traffic across the middle. But for Hall to keep one of the top receivers in the NFL to just five receptions for 38 yards is an extraordinary effort. However, Hall’s best play came when he was meant to be playing in zone coverage.


Here Washington is running a Tampa-2 defense, with two deep safeties and the middle linebacker, London Fletcher, dropping to cover deep zones. Dallas spread out their offense with an empty set, meaning they have no running back in the backfield with Romo. Miles Austin is running a go route at the top of the picture, while Beasley runs a deep post. Tight end Jason Witten runs a curl route underneath.


The curl route from Witten draws the attention of Fletcher, who bites down on it instead of dropping deep. That creates a hole in behind him for Beasley to run into. Safety Brandon Meriweather is forced inside to cover the post route, leaving Austin to run free up the sideline.


Luckily, Hall breaks his zone coverage and sprints back in effort to save the touchdown. Hall leaps and just manages to get his fingertips to the ball, disrupting it just enough to bounce off Austin and fall incomplete.

Not only was Hall athletic enough to make up the ground and get his hand on the ball, he showed great awareness of what the offense was trying to do and where his defense was weak. That play kept the Redskins in the game at the time, despite Washington going on to lose.

Coming off one of his best performances in a Redskins uniform, Hall faces a similarly tough challenge. Bears duo Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall are as good a quarterback and wide receiver combination as anyone in the league. Nobody knows that better than Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, who drafted both for the Denver Broncos in 2006. Cutler has a trust in Marshall that few quarterbacks have in their receivers. A perfect example came last week in the Bears’ match up against the Giants.


Marshall was running an out route towards the sideline against the Giants’ zone coverage. He looks well enough covered here and most quarterbacks would look to their next read. But Cutler puts the ball up for Marshall, trusting his ability to go up and get it over the defender.


Marshall does just that, leaping to make an incredible grab over the top of the defender. Again, there aren’t many quarterbacks that would trust their receiver to go and make that play. Similarly, there aren’t many receivers with the ability to make that play. But the Bears have one of the few quarterback and wide receiver combinations in the league that can, making them very difficult to defend.

Another thing to watch out for with Cutler is the back-shoulder throw. This is another type of throw that is built on timing and trust with the receiver. Cutler threw a beautiful back-shoulder throw to Alshon Jeffery against the Giants.


Chicago attempts to run a double move. Jeffery runs a slant-and-go to try and get the corner to bite down and get beat deep.


The corner doesn’t bite on the throw and runs step for step with Jeffery up the sideline. He appears to have Jeffery covered well, but little does he know that Cutler has put the ball in the air towards Jeffery’s back shoulder.


Jeffery jumps and manages to turn himself around to face the ball. He pulls in the catch before the corner even realizes the ball was thrown.

The back-shoulder throw is one of the hardest to defend if executed properly. The corner can play extremely tight man coverage, but still get beat because of the location of the ball on the back shoulder of the receiver. Cutler has become one of the best in the NFL at this type of throw, but it’s still very hard to pull off. If the location of the ball or the timing of the throw is off, then it can look like a very bad throw and possibly get intercepted. But Cutler isn’t afraid to take on those risks for the possible reward. Hall and his Washington teammates will have to be at their best to slow down this Bears passing attack.

Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins’ play without the benefit of access to the team.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins practice at 1 p.m. Coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III speak with reporters afterward.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

The Early Lead: Bears’ Marshall fined $10,500 for green cleats | More NFL

D.C. Sports Bog: Redskins host cancer survivors for day of pampering | More Bog

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Redskins sign three to boost special teams, secondary; Pugh cut

Mailbag: Passing around blame for the 1-4 start

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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Keith McMillan · October 16, 2013

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