DeAngelo Hall embraces move to safety, still views himself as a corner

To make a successful transition from corner to safety, DeAngelo Hall will have to change his mindset. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

ASHBURN, Va. -- The move wasn’t shocking, not with the other players the Washington Redskins had at corner. And moving DeAngelo Hall from corner to safety is a possibility that had been discussed periodically over the past several years. It also happened to be the correct one.

The question is: How long will it last? Hall is 32 years old, but coming off a torn Achilles tendon in 2014 and various injuries this season, including a sprained toe that sidelined him for five games. But he's played corner for 12 seasons, earning trips to three Pro Bowls.

“I think I’m a corner playing safety right now,” Hall said. “Who knows what the future holds.”

The Redskins have depth at corner with starters Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland and backups Will Blackmon and Kyshoen Jarrett. They do not have the same depth at safety. Hence, Hall's move to safety. The Redskins aren't ready to say if that was a one-week deal or a permanent switch. But Hall said Wednesday that he's part of their dime or six-defensive back package as a safety.

That’s where he played all 18 of his snaps against New Orleans, mostly in the Redskins’ dime package.

Monday, coach Jay Gruden said of the move, “You look at the success that [Charles] Woodson is having at Oakland... He can play until he's probably 45. He's playing unbelievable. D-Hall has similar-type ball skills and that's what you look for in a free safety. We have two corners that are playing pretty good so there's a chance he'll get work at free safety. We're not throwing him to the curb at corner by any stretch. But it'd be a great transition for him because of his athletic ability and his ball skills."

To make that transition, a corner must be smart and tough. The brains become important because they need to learn the game from a different position and a safety must make calls and be aware of what the entire offense is doing, not just one side. It’s not as simple as saying, "He can cover at corner therefore he can play safety."

“It’s a whole different mindset,” Hall said. “At corner everything happens so fast, you have to be quick trigger. You worry about that one guy and sometimes if you’re good, you can worry about him and the quarterback. At free safety, you have to worry about everyone on that offense. You have to be the safety valve; if something pops up you have to make the tackle. You’re making a lot of checks and lining guys up. You have to be the quarterback of the defense. It’s real different. I enjoy it. I’m embracing it and enjoying the challenge.”

Hall provides Washington an advantage because he can still run and cover, especially if asked to do so in a deep half as the Redskins typically had him play against the Saints. But Hall has spent his career reading quarterbacks. However, playing safety requires more than just playing pass defense. To play there full time, you have to learn to defend the run from a different spot. It’s not impossible, but it’s also not easy.

“It’s not just playing the post [route],” Hall said. “Sometimes you have to get in there and fill run gaps. That’s the tricky part.”

But if the Redskins continue to have depth at corner, then having Hall play safety provides versatility and options that did not exist two weeks ago. Putting Hall with Dashon Goldson, who is not as fast, cuts down the amount of space needed to cover. Last week, for example, Goldson cheated more to a side with Hall on the other side and took away Saints quarterback Drew Brees' first option, leading to a sack.

“They’re trying to find ways to get me on the field and put me in position to make plays,” Hall said. “What better way than to play safety where you can roam the field and make plays reading the quarterback? We’ll try to keep growing my knowledge and seeing how much I can handle.”