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Will DeAngelo Hall return to the Redskins in 2016?

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Will DeAngelo Hall return to the Redskins in 2016?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 5

Will DeAngelo Hall return?

Tandler: The day after the Redskins’ season ended Redskins coach Jay Gruden dropped a couple of very strong hits that DeAngelo Hall would return to the Redskins in 2016. In answering a question about leadership, Gruden said, “D-Hall is going to be here.” And when asked about Hall moving to safety, Gruden said, “I think he’s going to solidify himself as one of the top safeties in the league.”

But what is said in early January is not necessarily binding through the year. Hall faces some significant headwinds in coming back for a 13th NFL season. He will be 33 a week or so after midseason. In 2014 he missed 13 games due to a torn Achilles tendon and a toe injury cost him five games this year. And his salary cap number will be a bit over $5 million, making him No. 20 on the 2016 safety earnings list. While he didn’t play poorly his level of play combined with the injury factor makes that a bad value.

As with any player under contract there are three options here—keep him under his current deal, renegotiate a new contract with him, or cut him. Remember that it takes two to tango when it comes to renegotiating. Hall has been willing to work with the Redskins in the past in redoing his contract. But Hall may be reluctant to do so now, closer to the end of his career.

So although renegotiation may be the ideal scenario from the team’s standpoint it may not be an option.  So what does Scot McCloughan do if their choice is to keep him on his current deal or cut him? I think that depth problems at safety might force the Redskins to stick with Hall. But you can’t rule out the team moving on if Hall won’t take a pay cut.

El-Bashir: When Hall went down with a toe injury in late September, my immediate thought was that his tenure in Washington—and perhaps his distinguished NFL career—may be nearing its end.

Now, though, it looks like we’re witnessing a rebirth of sorts, as Hall completed a smooth pivot from cornerback to safety in the second half of the season. Over the final seven regular season games and the Wild Card playoff loss, the three-time Pro Bowl corner proved that he possesses the football acumen and tackling ability to thrive at safety, as well.

Gruden has indicated that he wants Hall back. And Hall has indicated that he wants to be back (which is important to note if, as Tandler pointed out, he's asked to take a pay cut). In fact, Hall seemed downright giddy at times talking about how the position change has breathed new life into a job that had begun to grow stale, while simultaneously helping him physically.

Based on all that and the Redskins’ need at safety, I don’t really see how Hall doesn’t return. It also helps that he's versatile enough to play virtually anywhere in the secondary.

Charles Woodson did it. Rod Woodson and Ronde Barber did it, too. And now it looks as though DeAngelo Hall will be the next accomplished corner to make the successful transition to safety...and tack a few quality years onto his career. Which is good news for a Redskins’ franchise that’s seemingly always in need of help on the backend. 

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Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are changing the Redskins defense

Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis are changing the Redskins defense

The Redskins spent time, money and draft capital to improve their defensive front. Through three games of the 2018 season, those moves are paying off. 

Construction of a rebuilt defensive line truly began at the 2017 NFL Draft when Jonathan Allen slipped all the way to Washington with the 17th pick. He showed plenty of promise last season, but an injury cut his season short after five games. The Redskins barely recovered from his absence and the team's rush defense limped to finish last in the NFL. 

Washington continued to invest in the defensive front in 2018, drafting Daron Payne in the first round and Tim Settle in the fifth. The 'Skins also re-signed tackling machine linebacker Zach Brown during free agency. 

Add it all up, and the Redskins currently rank in the top 5 of the NFL in nearly every meaningful defensive category. Giving up fewer than 15 points-per-game, Washington is tied for second in the NFL with the vaunted Jacksonville defense. Prefer the yardage allowed metric to measure team defense? Washington (278 per-game) only ranks behind the Ravens (273 per-game). 

Any good defense has strong players lining up from the front to the back, but it always starts up front.

In Washington, that means Payne and Allen at the top of the list. 

"Those two guys are special guys and they need to be on the field," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said on Monday, after Payne and Allen combined for three sacks of Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers.

"We have some other guys that can play without a doubt, but those two guys are first-rounders and very talented, so the more they play, the better they get."

Add in Matt Ioannidis, who has three sacks in three games, and the Redskins have a stout, young defensive line. Almost more importantly, all three players are on rookie, team-friendly contracts. In fact, Pro Football Focus has Ioannidis ranked as the highest graded of the Redskins defensive linemen, probably because of crazy plays like this.

Washington will continue to push Payne and Allen into more situations and more snaps. In the Packers game, both of the former University of Alabama defensive tackles played more than they ever had before. 

"The first couple games we had a rotation going and trying to get their feet wet together, especially Daron, but I think he showed that he can handle the reps and we want to get him out there. We didn’t draft him in the first round to sit by me," Gruden said. "I was impressed with the way that he and Jonathan played, not only at the start of the game, but at the end of the game. They were flying to the football. They were making plays downfield, in the pocket, in the running game. Those two guys together, the vision that we had when we drafted them, getting Jonathan and Daron together came to fruition."

This week the Redskins get to rest and nurse some wounds, particularly along the offensive line. After their bye, however, both sides of the football will be tested. 

First comes a Monday night game in New Orleans with the explosive Saints offense. That will be the biggest test yet for the young D-line. The following week will bring a different, more physical test for Allen and company: Cam Newton and the Panthers.

Redskins fans should be excited about the young defensive front. The play has been very encouraging, and that's without much statistical production yet from outside pass rushing stalwarts Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan. 

If the defensive numbers look the same after games against Drew Brees and Newton, then the conversation is no longer about potential. It's about results. 

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With the game put in their hands, the Redskins defense got the job done again

With the game put in their hands, the Redskins defense got the job done again

The Redskins got going quickly on offense against the Packers on Sunday. They scored in four plays the first time they had the ball. After a three and out they drove to another touchdown. In the second quarter they embarked on the longest touchdown drive they have had since 1999, a 98-yard march. By the time halftime came they had scored 28 points. 

That’s great but that four touchdowns are not always enough to beat an Aaron Rodgers-led Packers team. In 2016, the last season that Rodgers played all 16 games, Green Bay averaged 27 points per game. Basically, no lead is safe. 

But Jay Gruden played it very safe with the offensive play calling in the second half. Alex Smith, who was on fire in the first half, attempted only five passes in the last 30 minutes. They had 57 yards rushing in the second half, 32 of which came on the Redskins final possession when they drove for a field goal, their only points of the final two quarters. 

It was a similar performance to their season opener against the Cardinals when they were up 21-0 at halftime and then posted just a field goal in the second quarter. 

While the lack of offense in the second half of the Redskins’ two wins has been a talking point among fans and in the media, the key point is that both games turned out in the Redskins’ favor. They now have a defense that Gruden can trust to hold a lead. 

In Arizona, the Redskins defense gave up a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, but the lead was never in danger. On Sunday, a fourth-down stop and a takeaway kept the Packers game from ever getting to be a one-score game. 

In the second halves of their three games, including the Week 2 loss to the Colts, the Redskins have given up an average of 147 yards and seven points. It’s a small sample size but so far, they are doing a good job of shutting the door. 

Another thing the Redskins have been doing well defensively is preventing big plays. The longest play against them was the 64-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter against the Packers. Other than that, they have given up just four plays that gained over 20 yards and none longer than 27 yards. 

They are second in total defense. They are giving up a miniscule 4.3 adjusted net yards per pass attempt, a full two yards less than the league average. If you prefer to use the more traditional passer rating stat, opponents have compiled a 77.0, well below the league aggregate rating of 91.2. Again, it’s early but this is a good start. 

The Washington defense will need to keep it going the next two weeks. First up after the bye is Drew Brees of the Saints, who is healthy and completing over 80 percent of his passes. New Orleans also has running back Alvin Kamara, one of the best two-way threats in the game. After that is Cam Newton of the Panthers, who the Redskins never have beaten, and his dual-threat running back Christian McCaffrey. 

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