DeAngelo Hall aims to lead a Washington Redskins defensive rebound

With 10 seasons under his belt, DeAngelo Hall knows he’s closer to the end of his career than the start. But he fully believes he still ranks among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He also believes the Redskins’ defense, a year after a woeful season, can become one of the league’s top units.

Earlier this week, Hall watched a television program that featured a debate about the top cornerbacks in the NFL. His name was not mentioned. Miffed, he took to Twitter and declared he measures up against the top players at his position.

As he kicked off the 11th training camp of his career Thursday, Hall laughed when asked about his tweets but didn’t back down.

“As a corner, if you don’t feel like you’re the best, then you’ve got a problem,” said Hall, 30 . “I never said that I was the best. I’d be a fool to think that 11 years in I’m the best in the game. But I do think I’ve been pretty successful doing what I’ll do.”

In 10 seasons, Hall has racked up 564 tackles, 127 pass breakups and 43 interceptions — five returned for touchdowns. He’s one of only five active defensive backs with 40-plus interceptions (behind Ed Reed, Charles Woodson, Champ Bailey and Asante Samuel).

The Post Sports Live crew looks at the biggest story lines ahead of Redskins training camp, from the struggling secondary to keeping all of the offensive stars happy. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

But Hall doesn’t generally command the same type of respect as those veterans or even as much as some of the young stars at the position. Asked why, Hall thought for a second before answering.

“Maybe my reputation,” he said, referring to his image as a brash, hot-headed player in his younger years. “My reputation kind of precedes me a little bit. But I don’t go out there trying to please the media or the guys that are ranking corners. Probably early in my career, I did. But now I’m just, ‘The proof’s in the pudding.’ ”

More than anything, Hall said he wants to conclude his career — however many seasons that remain — as a winner. Since joining the Redskins in 2008, Washington has reached the playoffs just once (in 2012). For his career, Hall has played in only two other playoff games (both in 2004 while with Atlanta).

“Mentally, I’m just in a place where I know I don’t have a lot of football left, so I want to go out there, have as much fun as possible, lay it all on the line and not leave anything in the tank, so when I do walk away from this game, I feel good about it,” Hall said. “That’s just been my approach to these offseason practices and even last year. I just want to have fun and help us win as many games as possible.”

Hall added, “The goal is not about my individual success. . . . I understand it’s not about me but about this team, and I’m just trying to make everybody better.”

Hall’s approach comes as a welcome development for Coach Jay Gruden and his staff. Soon after accepting the job, Gruden reached out to Hall — then a free agent — and stressed that the team wanted to re-sign him. Gruden also told Hall he and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wanted and needed Hall to help fill the leadership void created by linebacker London Fletcher’s retirement.

Haslett was confident Hall could handle the role after seeing him display greater maturity last season. Gruden accepted Haslett’s endorsement. Thus far, Hall has delivered.

Robert Griffin III is healthy, has a new head coach and many new weapons on offense. The Post Sports Live crew debates whether he has all the tools he needs to lead the Redskins this season. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

“I did hear about DeAngelo Hall a little bit, some of the reputation, some of the things that happened, the attitude that he has,” Gruden said. “But as a cornerback, you kind of want some of that attitude, that cockiness, that confident air about you as long as it doesn’t affect your play. He’s proven the last few years that it doesn’t affect his play, and I think he’s calmed down a little bit. He knows what being a pro is all about.”

He added, “We’re happy with his leadership role and his accountability right now.”

That doesn’t mean Hall feels he has nothing to prove. He does and says the entire Redskins defense does as well. He says his defensive teammates want to maintain that mentality as they try to rebound from a 3-13 season.

“Absolutely, there is a chip on our shoulder,” Hall said. “Seeing Seattle go out there and have a dominant defense, going into this offseason, they’re what everybody is talking about. Everybody wants that kind of attention and that kind of love. So we all have got a chip on our shoulder — not just the secondary. We all want to be great.”

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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