Looking at DeAngelo Hall from both sides

August 26, 2011

DeAngelo Hall has a reputation for being able to read a quarterback, to anticipate a throw, to jump a route and turn an opponent’s drive right around. Thursday night, in a preseason game in which the Washington Redskins’ first-team defense played the entire first half for the second straight week, Hall again showed his tremendous upside.

On the Baltimore Ravens’ first possession, he dropped back into coverage, then jumped in front of wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Fifty-two yards later, he was in the end zone, and Washington had its first score of what became a 34-31 loss.

Hall also has a reputation for giving up yardage. So a quarter later, there he was, trying to run stride for stride with Baltimore wide receiver Lee Evans. But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco dropped a perfect pass over Hall’s shoulder that — despite Hall’s ardent protests that the ball should have been ruled incomplete — went for a 35-yard touchdown.

Hall’s night mirrored the Redskins’ defense’s evening, an uneven performance in which the first unit gave up 200 yards in the first half. That was more than the Redskins had allowed in either of their first two preseason games, in which they yielded a total of 10 points.

“It’s just like practice. It’s a nationally televised practice,” Hall said. “We’ve got some things we need to improve on, myself included.”

Hall was largely responsible for two of the Redskins’ six wins a year ago — the season opener over Dallas, when he scooped up a fumble late in the first half and scampered in for a touchdown, and a victory at Chicago in which he tied an NFL record by intercepting four passes. Those performances helped him to the Pro Bowl, where he earned MVP honors after picking off one pass and returning a fumble for a score.

Still, Hall said his year — from the first game to the last — was substandard. “I gave up too many big plays,” he said earlier in training camp. In this preseason, with safety LaRon Landry out because of injuries, he has been the veteran member of the secondary.

After Evans barely beat him to the back of the end zone Thursday night, Hall signaled — over and over — that the pass should have been ruled incomplete. When the Ravens lined up to kick the ensuing extra point, Hall strode back onto the field, near the 20 yard line — drawing, of all things, an offsides penalty.

On Evans’s catch, he said later, “I thought the ball was moving.”

Hall’s strange appearance in the backfield — he was closer to the kicker than he was to his would-be defensive teammates — wasn’t the Redskins’ only defensive penalty, nor was it the most important. Rookie outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan twice committed neutral-zone infractions, both times on third down. After the first, the Redskins forced the Ravens to punt, but special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander was called for running into the punter, a play that kept the Ravens’ first scoring drive alive.

And on third down from the Baltimore 13-yard line, safety Reed Doughty — subbing for Landry, who still is sidelined by injuries to his Achilles’ tendon and hamstring — was called for a hold on what became an incomplete pass. The play resulted in a first down, and five plays later, Flacco hit Evans with the pass that so upset Hall.

“We just gave up too many plays,” Hall said. “This game shouldn’t have even been close.”

Barry Svrluga is the national baseball writer for The Washington Post.
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