Redskins safety Reed Doughty was born on Nov. 4, 1982. He’s entering his eighth NFL season. So are guard Chris Chester, defensive end Kedric Golston, center Will Montgomery and offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood, all of whom were born before Nov. 19, 1983.
That’s the day that DeAngelo Hall came into the world. The cornerback made his NFL debut at 20. Now he’s beginning his 10th season and is just one interception from the 40th of his career, a feat reached by just four active players – Ed Reed, Champ Bailey, Asante Samuel and Charles Woodson, all of whom have been chosen for more Pro Bowls than Hall.
“I remember going into my third year in Atlanta, I had made a Pro Bowl and the coaches were still telling me I was the youngest guy on the team,” said Hall, a three-time Pro Bowl selection. “I was blessed to come into this league early, learn from some great guys. I was more little mature than a lot of 20-year-olds coming into this league [having already had the first of his six children who range from 11 years to 20 months]. I knew what I could do if I worked hard. That motivation and determination’s still there. I’m going to try to go out and make this my best season. Am I an old 29 or a young 29? That’s a good question.”
While Hall remains a good cornerback, more than many at his high-wire position, he often plays on the edge, giving up at least as many big plays as he makes. Playing conservative isn’t in his nature.
Hall, who was cut by Washington in March in a cost-cutting move before being re-signed to a much less expensive one-year deal less than a month later after not receiving any lucrative offers from other teams, said that his contract situation won’t be a motivating factor this year. Nor will the fact that the Redskins used their top draft choice on David Amerson, a ball-hawking cornerback. Hall also knows that fellow starting corner Josh Wilson and chief veteran backup E.J. Biggers are also in their contract years.
“I’m approaching this season just like I did my first nine years,” maintained Hall who didn’t play to his top level the past two seasons. “I’m going to go out there and try to stop the guy in front of me and make plays. I’m definitely locked in. I kind of got locked in towards the end of last year. I felt like I was locked in earlier in the year, but plays weren’t coming to myself, to us as a secondary. It definitely got a little frustrating. But the way we finished last year winning seven in a row, beating the Super Bowl champs and winning the division, our young guys now know the sky’s the limit.”
Perhaps so, but the fact remains that Washington hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005, Hall’s second year in the league, and hasn’t reached postseason in consecutive years since 1991-92 when he was in elementary school in Chesapeake, Va. And on a personal level, Hall hasn’t celebrated a playoff victory since he helped Atlanta reach the NFC Championship Game as a rookie.
But as usual, the ever-confident Hall thinks back to last January with optimism for what it could mean five months from now.
“We were up 14-0 [in the wild card game against Seattle] and felt we had the game pretty much in hand when [quarterback Robert Griffin III] went down and then everything kind of collapsed,” Hall said. “Any time you’ve been to a certain point, you know, ‘I’ve been there. We can at least get there.’ Then you set your goals a little higher.”
A 40th pick, a fourth Pro Bowl, and postseason success. Those are Hall’s goals for 2013.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.