Redskins' D benefitted in spring from lots of talk, DeAngelo Hall's speed

ASHBURN, Va. -- After the Washington Redskins wrapped up minicamp, here are some things that jumped out defensively:

Talking points: The communication has been outstanding. The talent base will be helped by the addition of corner Josh Norman and the return of linebacker Junior Galette. But I also think this defense has the potential -- a difficult word, mind you -- to be a smart one. There are a lot of guys who know the game well and know how to relay information. All of that should lead to improvement overall. What is impossible to know just yet is how much better -- a little? A lot? Will they regret not drafting a lineman high? But there’s more energy on defense than there’s been in a while. Inside linebacker Will Compton is among those adding quite a bit. Same with Norman, who looked solid this spring.

Safety DeAngelo Hall: I’ll have more on this later, but there’s a big difference watching him this spring compared to last summer and early last season. Back then, he had little explosiveness so if he was beat, Hall could not make up ground. That was true even when he faced tight end Jordan Reed in practice, for example. Multiple leg issues had cost Hall his explosiveness. But Hall was driving on the ball well this spring -- a lot of it was coming downhill, so he could use his anticipation skills to help. A big key this summer will be when he’s covering single high and how much ground he can make up. He’s still not a finished product at safety, but he’s moving better.

Corner Dashaun Phillips: He might be the biggest surprise of the spring, given his status last season. But Phillips gained weight and looked good in practice. The coaches love his awareness in coverage; he’s usually in the right spot in coverage, which is why he was working as the nickel corner with the starters. It’s step one for Phillips. The tougher one comes next. But if he continues playing as he has, the Redskins’ depth at corner increases. They’ve usually needed that depth, too.

Safety David Bruton's size: At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, he’s the Redskins' biggest safety since the late Sean Taylor. But what the Redskins like more than anything goes back to an area stated above: His communication skills. He’s a smart player. Now he has to prove he can be a worthy starter.

Up front: It was hard to get a good feel for how the defense played the run because there were no pads. It might not be until the season begins that we get a good answer on this one. They need to improve greatly in this area. One player the coaches liked up front was Ziggy Hood, the former Pittsburgh Steeler who lasted just one season in Jacksonville after signing a big free-agent contract. Trent Murphy, transitioning from linebacker to full-time lineman, did not jump out. That doesn’t mean he struggled, but it does mean I didn’t notice him (during the times I focused on the line). I’ll be curious to see how he develops here this summer and in one-on-one battles against the offensive linemen. While the Redskins like their depth up front, will they regret not selecting a lineman high in either of the past two drafts? It’s a fair question -- and one the Redskins hope is not debated deep into the season.