The NFL is a pressure-packed environment with players fighting every day to keep their jobs and to win games. But some are under the gun more than others. Between now and the start of training camp well take a look at the players who are in the spotlight and under the most pressure to perform. Earlier we looked at Brian Orakpo and today its DeAngelo Hall.DeAngelo Hall has had many memorable moments with the Redskins. In the 2010 season opener he forced and then scooped up a fumble and ran it into the end zone for the Redskins only touchdown in a win over Dallas. Later that year he picked off four Jay Cutler passes, returning one of them for a TD that was the winning margin in that game.The memories are not always so pleasant. The two enduring images of Hall last year are of him grabbing Dez Bryants facemask after giving up a big fourth-down completion that set up the game-winning field goal for Dallas and of him watching while the Patriots Rob Gronkowski broke away from two tacklers and rumbled down the sideline.Hall is a playmaker and he makes plays that help both teams. He also is the Redskins No. 1 cornerback and he is making 6 million this year. His salary cap number would be higher but the Redskins paid him a big chunk of money in 2010. That was part of the reason they were hit with the 36 million salary cap penalty this year and next.The Redskins are looking at moving him to slot corner. In the past, that would be considered a step down from playing on the outside, as teams would go with three wide receivers only on passing down. But as teams go the three- and four-receiver sets in just about any down and distance, the nickel position has become a starting job. In some ways, it is more challenging than playing on the outside.There's a lot more room out there is the slot, Hall said during minicamp last month. The receiver's got two ways to go, you've got to cover the whole field as opposed to playing corner where you can go, that's the sideline.You can see your friend over there, the sideline, you've got help sometimes. It's definitely a lot easier as opposed to playing nickel but we've got a lot of things with the nickel where you've got a chance to go our and have some fun, too.Things will be a lot more fun if he can pick off some more passes. He had the one great game against the Bears but playing nearly every snap in the other 31 games in the past two years he has a total of five interceptions. Thats OK if youre a lockdown corner who has opposing quarterbacks afraid to throw in your direction Its not nearly enough if your game is based on getting takeaways.This could be a make or break year for Hall. His salary ticks up to 7.5 million next year and it goes to 9 million in 2014. If his interception totals dont climb with his salary the Redskins could go looking for other options.
Kirk Cousins' price tag just moved even higher with the news that he will replace Matt Ryan in the Pro Bowl. ESPN's John Keim reported the roster move first.
Ryan's Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl on Sunday with a 44-21 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers. That victory means Ryan will not be available for the Pro Bowl, held this Sunday in Orlando. Cousins got his spot as an alternate.
Cousins gets the spot deservedly. This season he passed for 4,917 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes and throwing 25 TDs to 12 INTs. In two seasons since being named starter for the Redskins, Cousins has thrown for more than 9,000 yards.
The Pro Bowl nod for Cousins will only make the Redskins pending contract talks that much tougher. The quarterback played in 2016 under the franchise tag, which netted him nearly $20 million. This season Washington could again place Cousins on the franchise tag, with a price tag around $24 million. Both sides can still work for a long-term deal, though the value of that contract would likely soar past $100 million and closer to $120 million.
Some questions exist within the Redskins organization if that is too much money devoted to one player, even if it is a Pro Bowl quarterback.
It's fitting that Cousins is subbing in for Ryan, who has found much success playing under Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. All signs points to Shanahan taking over as the 49ers head coach after the Super Bowl, and a report emerged that San Francisco would make a strong push to obtain Cousins, either in free agency or via trade.
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The Redskins have made official some coaching staff changes that have been reported over the last few days.
The team announced that they have filled both coordinator jobs with internal hires. Outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky is the new defensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is now the offensive coordinator.
The team also announced the hiring of two assistant coaches, one on each side of the ball. Kevin O’Connell will replace Cavanaugh as the QB coach and Jim Tomsula will coach the defensive line.
Tomsula was the 49ers head coach in 2015. He was fired after that one season after posting a 5-11 record. But it was his eight seasons as defensive line coach in San Francisco that the Redskins care about. Tomsula did a solid job there, working under Mike Nolan, Mike Singletary, and Jim Harbaugh. He also was the defensive line coach under Manusky when he was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco.
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He is known as a fiery motivator, something that will work well with Manusky’s similar style. The line was one of the weakest areas of the defense last year. They are likely to add some talent to the line this offseason and Tomsula is a good choice to coach them up.
The Redskins still need a defensive backs coach. They have a strong in-house candidate in Aubrey Pleasant and now attention will turn to getting a deal for him. It remains to be seen if they will fill Manusky’s former job or if current inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will add the outside backers to his responsibilities.