DeAngelo Halls learning curve has been a steep one as he adjusts to playing nickel cornerback. Six days into training camp, though, the Redskins veteran said hes finding a comfort zone after spending the first nine seasons of his NFL career playing on the outside.More than anything, though, Hall said hes looking forward to next Thursdays preseason opener in Buffalo so he can cover a receiver not named Santana Moss.Santana has gotten me a couple of times, said Hall with a chuckle. Ive gotten him a couple of times. Im just excited about getting into some real games, going against other guys and seeing how I can mix it up against them.As the nickel corner, Halls list of responsibilities will grow. Not only will be charged with covering the slot receiver, hell also be in position to make more tackles and blitz.But hell still get to utilize his greatest skill: making plays on the ball.I always make this statement: Im probably not a great corner, but I feel like Im a great football player, Hall said. To be a nickel, you have to be a complete football player. You have to tackle, you have to be able to pick off passes, you have to be able to read routes and you have to know what the linebacker does.Hall will be replacing Kevin Barnes, who struggled in slot coverage last season. Cedric Griffin, meantime, is expected to take over for Hall as the outside corner opposite Josh Wilson.For the Redskins to excel in pass defense, theyll need Hall to make a seamless transition to a new position in a revamped secondary the 28-year-old jokingly referred to as full of misfits.In addition to Halls position switch, first-year secondary coach Raheem Morris also will be tasked with integrating two new safeties after the team released Oshiomogho Atogwe and let LaRon Landry walk in free agency. The unit ranked 21st in the league in opposition yards per pass attempt (7.5) last season.Hall said hes also aiming to have a bounce back season individually. After making his third Pro Bowl in 2010, Hall saw his interception total drop from six to three last season.Do I want to make more plays? Yeah, Hall said. The more plays anybody makes, the more games we win. Did I drop plays last year or did I not make plays I should have made? Yeah, I did. I felt like the opportunities were there but I just didnt cash in on them.
The Redskins will have to get through the season without Junior Galette, who suffered a second torn Achilles tendon in as many seasons. He won’t be easy to replace but they will have to line up and play 16 games without him just like they did last year.
Ryan Kerrigan, who had 9.5 sacks last year, will start at left outside linebacker as he has since he was drafted in 2011. Preston Smith, who was going to compete with Galette for the starting right side job, will now have that to himself.
Kerrigan had 13.5 sacks just two years ago and Smith has the potential to have that many. After that, however, the Redskins are quite thin.
Last year they had Trent Murphy starting 15 games at right outside linebacker. But he has been moved to the defensive line, adding around 30 pounds to make the position change. Even if the team wants to move him back to linebacker it may not be possible to have Murphy shed the weight.
Assuming Murphy stays on the line, the Galette injury could open the door for a few other players to get an opportunity. Houston Bates played in eight games last year, most on special teams. Willie Jefferson has been looking for an opportunity since he played six games for the Texans in 2013. And Lyden Trail is large (6-7, 270), athletic, and very, very green.
The Redskins also could use rookie Su'a Cravens, their second-round pick, to help out with outside pass rush. He could be of help in nickel situations but at 6-1, 222 he is not big enough to be effective defending against the run from the ouside linebacker spot.
Training camp is always important for young players but for this group the stakes just went sky high. We will see who responds starting in a few days.
Kyshoen Jarrett was one of the best stories on the Redskins last year. A 6th-round rookie from Virginia Tech, Jarrett found his way into an important role for Washington as the slot cornerback, and saw his playing time steadily increase throughout the season.
Then, in a meaningless Week 17 win over the Cowboys, Jarrett sustained a shoulder injury. But the shoulder injury wasn't the worst part as he sustained nerve damage that stunted his rehab.
In a move that surprised few who saw him this summer, on Monday the Redskins waived Jarrett with a failed physical designation.
From a football sense, the 'Skins secondary should still be much improved after the signing of free agent Josh Norman and drafting Kendall Fuller, another Hokie, in the third round this year. From a personal sense, the Jarrett news is sad to see, as coaches and teammates often said he was a hard worker with what appeared to be a good NFL career in front of him.
Jarrett played in 16 games last year, making 58 tackles to go with four passes defensed and a forced fumble.
Just days before training camp begins, Junior Galette again tore his Achilles and will be out for the year. Are there any edge rushers available on the gree agent market that the Redskins would consider?
One name stands out: Greg Hardy.
Though a disappointment on the field and a mess off of it for the last two seasons, few players in the NFL can get after quarterbacks like Hardy once did. In 2012 and 2013 Hardy combined for 26 sacks and a trip to the Pro Bowl.
Undoubtedly Hardy's name carries a lot of personal questions. A lot. But that won't scare off everybody in the NFL - in fact, Hardy recently worked out for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The guess here is Washington does not even consider Hardy, but stranger things have happened.
Another name that will be mentioned is Dwight Freeney. At 36 years old, Freeney's best days are behind him, but the veteran was able to post eight sacks last year with the Cardinals. Arizona smartly deployed Freeney in a strict situational role, and if the 'Skins could come up with a similar plan, he might be a fit.
Beyond Freeney and Hardy, it's hard to see a current free agent that would be better than the Redskins options behind Galette. And given Hardy's history, it's unlikely he is an option.
Considering Washington won the NFC East last year without Galette, and second-year LB Preston Smith could continue to emerge after eight sacks his rookie season, it would not be a surprise if Scot McCloughan simply stands pat.