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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    D. Hall washed up??

    Star return men usually aren't electrifying for long

    By Michael Bradley - SportingNews

    Hey, Dante Hall. You've been in the NFL for seven years. You'll be 29 this September. And you recently were traded from Kansas City to St. Louis. Do you think Chiefs coach Herm Edwards was telling you something? Yeah, you scored on returns in four straight games in 2003. But now those legs have a lot of miles on them.

    Come on, Dante. Admit it. You're slipping.

    "I know I got it," Hall says, defiantly. "I think I got it. I feel I got it. (Edwards) told me I got it. I just think (the trade) was more personal than due to my skills.

    "I definitely got it."

    Spoken like a true return man -- never backing down. Hall plans to give the Rams a big jolt. And, boy, do they need it. Last season, they were 26th in the league bringing back kickoffs (21.3-yard average) and tied for 24th returning punts (7.Cool. Hall can beat those averages. No problem.

    Well, maybe the Dante Hall of 2002-04 could. Truth be told, he has averaged 7.5 yards on punt returns since then. And his kickoff numbers have fallen each of the past four seasons, to 22.8 in 2006. History tells us you need more than supreme confidence to overcome the ravages of time spent bringing back kicks.

    The shelf life of a return man is not long. We're talking fresh produce, not canned goods. For every Brian Mitchell, who returned kicks and punts for 14 seasons, there are hundreds of others who lasted just a couple years. Teams may be trying to find the next Devin Hester, who as a rookie returned six kicks for touchdowns, including the postseason. But considering the turnover among return men, it's fair to wonder how quickly the Bears will be looking for their next Hester.

    Dolphins fans booed their team's decision to choose Ohio State's Ted Ginn last month because they knew spending the ninth overall pick on someone who could be primarily a return specialist was shortsighted. If Ginn doesn't turn out to be a front-line receiver, he might have a brief career.

    Some return men can't hack it. Others don't want to stick with it. Many more fall prey to a variety of factors that push them out of the position. Since 1970, only 12 players have led their conference more than once in yards per punt return. Only three have topped the AFC or NFC in kickoff return average multiple times.

    "Special teams are all about want," Hall says. "There's technique involved. There's scheme involved. But for a good return man, you've got to keep running it up in there. You've got to have want-to."

    Job hopping

    Mitchell never considered himself too important for the return game. "I was a small-town guy, just a hard-working country guy from Louisiana," he says. "It never got in my head that I was supposed to do something else." But most players come into the league hoping to be full-time performers on offense or defense. If returning kicks and punts is their ticket to a roster spot as a young player, fine. Down the road, they want more.

    Panthers receiver Steve Smith is the perfect example. He led the NFC with a 25.6-yard average on kick returns as a rookie in 2001 and was a dangerous punt returner. But he caught only 10 passes that season. As Smith has emerged as a star receiver, his role as a return man has diminished. He has returned only five kickoffs over the past three seasons and fielded only 12 punts in 2006.

    Eagles running back Brian Westbrook hasn't been a full-time return man since 2003. Redskins receiver Santana Moss hasn't brought back punts regularly since '04. Both moved from special teams weapon to offensive stalwart.

    "Sometimes, it's hard for return men to find a full-time position," Ravens special teams coach Frank Gansz says. "But if they become real players at running back or receiver, you don't want them to return kicks. Look at Derrick Mason. He was a heck of a return man with Tennessee, and now he's our No. 1 receiver."

    Teams aren't just afraid that one of their top players will get pummeled by a coverage maniac; they also are worried about fatigue. Though Hall disputes this, his statistical decline the past few years could have been caused by his increased use as a receiver.

    "You can get worn out playing your butt off on offense or defense," Bucs special teams coach Richard Bisaccia says. "To play at such a high speed at your position and then try to make a big play in special teams is tiring. These guys are indispensable, and you don't want to put them out there too much."

    Body blows

    When Mitchell played with the Redskins, Eagles and Giants, he weighed anywhere from 209 to 225 pounds. He was an option quarterback in college at Louisiana-Lafayette and also played running back in the NFL, so he was used to taking hits. "I didn't dance to avoid contact," Mitchell says. "I would feed my shoulder pads to people."

    Hall is listed at only 5-8, 187, but he played running back at Texas A&M and got accustomed to regularly getting hit by bigger guys. Many return men don't get used to that, nor do they have the body control to avoid hits or the savvy to know when to cut their losses.

    "I'm the master of knowing when to take the hit and when not to take the hit," Hall says. "If four or five guys are coming at you, step out of bounds. Running backs do it."

    A return man who takes a few too many hits tends to lose focus and becomes more susceptible to turnovers. Coaches can tolerate poor return averages, but when someone starts dropping the ball, there's trouble.

    "Bobby Jackson, my running backs coach with the Redskins, always said, 'Ball security is job security,' " Mitchell says.

    Gansz says reliability often gets overlooked when return men are analyzed, and he points to the yards B.J. Sams saves the Ravens just with his ability to make tough catches on punts.

    "I tell him that if the ball hits the ground, we lose field position," says Gansz. "You can't take chances."

    Older means slower

    There's no denying age robs players of speed. It may be only a tenth of a second in the 40, but slower is slower. Once you lose that burst, you lose confidence. That can lead to mistakes -- and the loss of a job.

    "As the years go on, you get into a position where you think you have to make a big play," Bisaccia says. "That might hinder your decision-making process. You might catch the ball on the 2-yard line. Or you might fumble. One mistake leads to another."

    These days, Hall relies more on film work and on studying the tendencies of punters and coverage units than he used to. He can't count on simply blazing past defenders, so he has to use quickness and vision.

    "I don't have to be the fastest guy," he says. "I just have to be as fast as I need to be."

    Spoken like a true veteran. Let's hope that doesn't mean Hall is heading toward the end of his return career.


  2. #2
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Alot of miles on his legs??? The guy is 29 not 69.

  3. #3
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    hope is right,.,, thats the only thing we can do is hope that d.hall is not washed up

  4. #4
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    He was brought in for special teams duties only and i hope it stays that way. If he focuses on one task and thats as a return man, then i think we'll be seeing something a bit more exciting than what we've been sorely missing the last few years.Tony Horn and Az were good and if he can come close to what they've done during the GSOT days, wow!! other teams would actualy fear our ST unit.

  5. #5
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Honestly, and I believe I've been saying this from the moment we acquired him, he's going to improve our special teams simply because our returning was so horrible, but I really doubt he's going to put up the kind of numbers he did 3-4 years ago. I really think his days of multi-ST touchdowns are behind him.
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  6. #6
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    He will help our field position in a big way.

  7. #7
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    If Hall can do two things I'll be satisfied:

    1. Return 1 kick this year for a TD and, in doing so, influence the outcome of the game; and

    2. Make opposing kickers and punters worry enough that they sacrifice distance for direction.

  8. #8
    The Shredder Guest

    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    If Hall can do two things I'll be satisfied:

    1. Return 1 kick this year for a TD and, in doing so, influence the outcome of the game; and

    2. Make opposing kickers and punters worry enough that they sacrifice distance for direction.
    Kickers aren't afraid of him anymore.

    Have fun watching Dante juke left n right, followed by him running backwards in trying to avoid defenders because of the piss poor blocking STL has on special teams.

  9. #9
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    The Shredder, for those of you who don't know, conducted a comprehensive study of the opinions of all the punters and kickers in the NFL regarding their fear, or lack thereof, of Dante Hall. He interviewed each kicker and punter and, utilizing the latest in electronic fear detection devices, measured both their outward reactions and their manifestations of latent fear levels. At the conclusion of his study, he concluded that kickers simply are not afraid of Dante Hall.

    If you'd like to review the entire study, complete with The Shredder's data, it can be found in "Talking Out of the Posterior Monthly," available at fine newstands everywhere.

  10. #10
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Quote Originally Posted by The Shredder View Post
    Kickers aren't afraid of him anymore.

    Have fun watching Dante juke left n right, followed by him running backwards in trying to avoid defenders because of the piss poor blocking STL has on special teams.
    So what you're saying is if the Rams ST blocking is decent we might have something?

  11. #11
    The Shredder Guest

    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    The Shredder, for those of you who don't know, conducted a comprehensive study of the opinions of all the punters and kickers in the NFL regarding their fear, or lack thereof, of Dante Hall. He interviewed each kicker and punter and, utilizing the latest in electronic fear detection devices, measured both their outward reactions and their manifestations of latent fear levels. At the conclusion of his study, he concluded that kickers simply are not afraid of Dante Hall.

    If you'd like to review the entire study, complete with The Shredder's data, it can be found in "Talking Out of the Posterior Monthly," available at fine newstands everywhere.

    Now you're just being a smartass. How do I know? It's because kickers kick to him. Punters punt to him. It's not like it was in 2003 where kickers and punters used to kick away from him.

  12. #12
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick View Post
    Honestly, and I believe I've been saying this from the moment we acquired him, he's going to improve our special teams simply because our returning was so horrible, but I really doubt he's going to put up the kind of numbers he did 3-4 years ago. I really think his days of multi-ST touchdowns are behind him.
    Nick, i think your 100% right, a nice upgrade but i think we would be fooling ourselves to think he is the Hall of old.

  13. #13
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    These kinds of articles are, IMO, a good and rewarding way to help improve the Rams ST.

    After reading and being well informed, i.e., well aware of these doubters, D Hall will work hard to prove them wrong and prove the Rams right. And I don't think it will be that difficult to achieve that reputation either.

    Thank you Michael Bradley of Sporting News. Next?...

  14. #14
    The Shredder Guest

    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Quote Originally Posted by laram0 View Post
    So what you're saying is if the Rams ST blocking is decent we might have something?
    It's quite possible, but only if Dante decides to run upfield.

  15. #15
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    Re: D. Hall washed up??

    Who cares if hes "washed up", "has miles on his legs", or anyother comment, Hes still better then any returner we've had in the past 5+ years.

    The only thing I'll say about returners is that they have just as much to do with how good the blocking is... hoepfully ours can get a bit better!

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