Seven months after switch, Redskins vet DeAngelo Hall is settling in at safety

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Seven months after switch, Redskins vet DeAngelo Hall is settling in at safety

Although he’s already played half a season at safety, DeAngelo Hall anticipates taking a significant step forward in the coming months.

Why?

He’ll benefit from an entire offseason of first team reps at his new position, rather than attempting to master a new job on the fly, as he did late last season. 

"I’m still learning some different things, but I’m having a blast," Hall said. "I enjoyed being able to get a little taste of it last year, and [now] starting from scratch this year."

Hall, 32, made the switch to safety last November in part because, well, he had to.

He had toyed with the idea of making the transition for a couple of years, but upon returning from toe injury in Week 10, the longtime corner found himself in need of a place to play with Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland entrenched as the starters.

And so, at long last, Hall officially began following in the footsteps of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Ronde Barber—all of whom made a successful, late-career pivot from corner to safety.

Indeed, after playing his first 11 seasons exclusively at corner, Hall played the final seven games of 2015, including the Wild Card loss to the Packers, at safety. Although the transition went as smoothly as possible, changing positions in the middle of the season, much less during a pressure packed playoff push, is never ideal.   

Now, though, Hall’s finally getting the opportunity to really sink his teeth into his new role, which, he recently revealed, will feature a key tweak.

"I’m pretty comfortable," Hall said. "It’s a little different; last year, I played a little more strong than free, and this year I’ll play a little more free than strong. But in our defense you have to be able to do both. You have to be able to interchange. [The offense] can motion one guy, and the free safety becomes the strong safety and the strong safety becomes the free safety. You got to know them both. So, to say I’m free safety really doesn’t mean much because, like I said, one motion and I’m the strong safety in the defense."

During the only OTA practice open to the media last week, Hall, who is entering his ninth season in Washington, lined up as one first string safety. Newcomer David Bruton Jr., meantime, was the other. And while Bruton could face some competition, it's probably safe to pencil in Hall as a Week 1 starter.

"It’s been fun,” Hall said. "That’s probably the best word I can use."

RELATED: WHO STARTS AT SAFETY IN 2016?

Redskins' Kirk Cousins consults current and former NFL starters for advice

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Redskins' Kirk Cousins consults current and former NFL starters for advice

A year ago, Kirk Cousins spent the spring and summer months competing for a job on the Redskins’ roster.

This offseason, he’s working to refine his routine as the Redskins' starting quarterback.

And that work, he revealed recently, has included reaching out to current and former NFL quarterbacks and asking them about their approach to the seven months between games.

"Basically, I’m trying to figure that out still,” Cousins said. “I feel like I’m still in [that] process."

"I’ve called a few of the starting quarterbacks around the league, a few of the retired guys who had great careers," he added, "and just asked them what worked for them in the offseason."

Cousins didn’t specify which quarterbacks he’s called. But he didn’t need to. The simple fact that he’s consulting them is interesting. And telling, even for a guy known for his meticulous preparation. (Last December, Cousins said he parsed each day into 15-minute increments using a color-coded spreadsheet.)

So what did Cousins ask? A little bit of everything, from football to family.

"What was their rhythm in January, February, March?" Cousins said. "When they went back in April, May, June, what’s their rhythm? What’s their rhythm in the summer? How do they handle family? How do they balance travel and opportunities?"

Seeking information from vets who’ve handled one of the most pressure-packed jobs in sports is a wise move for the 27-year-old Cousins as he navigates his first offseason as the Redskins' most important player. Because in addition to facing increased pressure and scrutiny on the field in the coming months, there no doubt will be more people vying for Cousins’ time, as well.

More media appearances. More marketing opportunities. More, well, everything. Dealing with the increased pressure and blitz on his time will be paramount, and the fact that Cousins has gotten out in front of it all should help.

"I’m still figuring that out, so I don’t know that I have a great answer," he said. "I’m trying to get to a routine that works for me and my wife and our family. Once we start in mid-April and go ‘til mid-June, football’s a huge priority and I’m trying to get as much done here as I can."

Kirk Cousins is excited about Jamison Crowder's growth, Josh Doctson's potential

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Kirk Cousins is excited about Jamison Crowder's growth, Josh Doctson's potential

Kirk Cousins says he's excited about up-and-coming receivers Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson and what they'll add to the Redskins’ offense in 2016.

Cousins expects Crowder, who turns 23 next month, to make a significant jump in his second NFL offseason following a breakout rookie campaign.

“It’s a little bit of confidence and common sense, but when it’s your second year and you caught [that] many passes in your first year, you come in a little more confident and sure of yourself and you know what it means to be a pro now,” Cousins said.

A year ago at this time, Crowder was competing with veteran Andre Roberts for the slot receiver role. This offseason, all of those reps will belong to Crowder, who finished third on the team in catches (59) and receiving yards (604) in 2015.

The chemistry between Cousins and Crowder was apparent during Wednesday's practice, the first session of the spring open to media. On multiple occassions, Cousins completed tough passes to the shifty, 5 foot 8 playmaker as he was in full stride.

“All of that lends itself to taking another step forward,” Cousins added. “He’s a great teammate, smart player, has a natural sense of how to get open, how to run different option routes and choice routes, great natural hands and is really good after the catch pulling away from people. So, just add him of guys who we are excited about being able to throw to.”

The newest addition to that list, of course, is Doctson. Although Doctson, 23, was limited a bit this week due to a sore Achilles’ tendon, Cousins is already well aware of what the TCU product will bring to the Redskins’ offense.

Last season, tight end Jordan Reed was Washington’s biggest red zone threat. Now, Cousins will have Doctson, who is 6 foot 2, 206-pounds with a 41-inch vertical, as an option, as well.

“I went back and watched some of his highlights from TCU, and he is a special player,” Cousins said. “Looks like he can make the contested catch. It’s very natural for him to go up and catch that type of pass. He can run well. He has got great size. I almost thought he was a tight end when he showed up because if his size …having a guy like Josh could also be a great weapon in the red zone.”

The challenge for Docston over the remaining seven OTA practices will be getting more comfortable with the playbook so he can hit the ground running in Richmond. The challenge for Cousins will be identifying Doctson’s strengths and weaknesses, so he can develop the type of connection he already has with the other pass-catchers on the roster. 

“We’ll try to build that chemistry as he’s here and as we can work together and just learn what he does well and what fits him, what he is natural at and try to get him the football,” Cousins said. “We certainly can spread it around with all the talent at the outside positions.”

Which, obviously, is another challenge for Cousins, who now must find a way to keep Crowder, Doctson, Reed, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon happy. That, however, is an issue for another blog post.