Friday, November 7, 2008

Missed chance

The Patriots missed out on an opportunity to add a significant infusion of talent into their depleted secondary.

DeAngelo Hall, the Pro Bowl cornerback cut by the Raiders for some mysterious reason, ended his brief unemployment by signing with the Redskins on Friday. During his two days on the market, the 24-year-old was recruited heavily by teams including the New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Patriots.

It's very possible that Hall was unattainable from the start. He's a Virginia product, and enjoyed a successful college career at Virginia Tech. Hearing the call from Washington, the team closest to his home state, may have been all he wanted to hear. Throw in the fact that the Redskins are a legitimate playoff threat, and the deal may have been done.

But assuming that wasn't the case, and Hall was weighing his options, the Patriots dropped a golden opportunity. At this point, New England is looking for bodies to put into red, white, blue and silver and stick in the secondary. Between Super Bowl XLII and the start of the season, the Patriots saw Asante Samuel, Randall Gay, Eugene Wilson, Tank Williams, Jason Webster and John Lynch depart via free agency, release or injury. During the season, that list has grown to include Rodney Harrison, for the season, and Terrence Wheatley.

Along came a chance to get a mega-talented corner, at the peak of his game, who still managed 43 tackles and three interceptions playing half-heartedly for an embarrassment. In New England's secondary, Hall would have brought his ball-hawk skills and blazing speed to a cornerback position that, joined with Deltha O'Neal, Ellis Hobbs and Jason Webster (resigned), would have become one of the fastest units in the league.

Remember those long bombs that tore apart the Patriots at San Diego? And those slot passes to Anthony Gonzalez that resulted in both touchdowns for Indianapolis? Those passes are a lot riskier with Hall out there, who, while not a physical presence, often is an interception waiting to happen.

Of course, with Hall, there is the attitude problem to account for. But according to his Raider teammates, he couldn't have been too hard to stand. Besides, many of the Patriots' biggest acquisitions (Corey Dillon and Randy Moss spring to mind) were branded chemistry cancers also, before turning it around to post Pro Bowl-caliber seasons.

The common denominator? Players come to play for Bill Belichick. When players join the Patriots, they convert to the Patriot way. Shut your mouth, do your job and play.

DeAngelo Hall won't be doing that for the Patriots this season. It might have made life easier for Belichick and Co. if he were.

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