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Redskins call on Hall for spark on punt returns

The Redskins want to see more out of the primary punt returner, so cornerback DeAngelo Hall will have the ball in his hands more often, starting with this week's game in Atlanta.
The Redskins want to see more out of the primary punt returner, so cornerback DeAngelo Hall will have the ball in his hands more often, starting with this week's game in Atlanta. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese and Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Emerging from the bye week, the Redskins plan to make some personnel changes before this weekend's game at Atlanta, none bigger than replacing primary punt returner Antwaan Randle El with DeAngelo Hall.

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Danny Smith, special teams coordinator, will focus this week on helping Hall prepare to handle the majority of returns against the Falcons, and Santana Moss is expected to continue as a change-of-pace returner, a league source said.

When asked about the move after practice at Redskins Park, Coach Jim Zorn said a final decision has not been made, but acknowledged "one of the things that's going to happen is we're going to get another guy involved in punt returning and that's going to be DeAngelo."

"We're going to try to get him more and more reps," Zorn said. "I've been trying to get Santana at least a couple of punt returns a game, and I'm going to continue that. You're still going to see Antwaan out there, but it'll be a little more flipped as far as the involvement. You're going to see more and more" of Hall.

While that change is one of necessity for the Redskins, there will be others that are prompted by injury. While Chris Cooley recovers from ankle surgery, Fred Davis will be the team's primary tight end.

Though Davis, a second-round pick in the 2008 draft, had 78 yards and a touchdown after Cooley went down against Philadelphia, Davis knew he'd need to improve his pass-blocking. So he cancelled plans to fly home and instead called tight ends coach Scott Wachenheim, asking him if he'd remain in Ashburn during the bye week. The two met for 2 1/2 hours Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, putting in extra work to prepare Davis.

"We just went through the fundamentals," said Wachenheim. "From stance, steps, hand placement, eye placement -- things you would teach a Pop Warner football player. Just started back at square one and just started building on that."

Davis said Redskins coaches "know I can catch the ball. They just want to make sure I can block, to be able to handle all of that at once."

"It's definitely a good opportunity, a big chance to show people what you can do and why they picked you second round," Davis said.

With left tackle Stephon Heyer still nursing a sore knee, recently signed lineman Levi Jones is expected to take more reps in practice this week. And guard Chad Rinehart says he's been told he could see some time against the Falcons.

Zorn said that linebacker H.B. Blades and cornerback Byron Westbrook both suffered meniscus tears against the Eagles and underwent arthroscopic surgery last Tuesday.

"I think they have a chance to be ready in the next game [against the Denver Broncos on Nov. 15]," Zorn said, "and we'll just see how they progress."

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