While they're at opposite ends of their careers, rookie Joshua Holsey and veteran DeAngelo Hall are both learning from each other in what's shaping up to be a competitive secondary.
Thirteen years of experience separates rookie cornerback Joshua Holsey and veteran safety Deangelo Hall, but, even as players at opposite ends of their careers, they're both committed to learning from the other.
That's noticeable largely from the conversations they've shared on the sideline in the early-going of training camp, in which Hall, carrying pad and pen, doles out advice and a trove of football expertise to the seventh-round Auburn product, trying his best to make the next few weeks in Richmond, Va., as meaningful and impressionable as possible.
"As a young cat, I'm trying to steal every little bit of knowledge he knows," Holsey said after a recent practice. "So every chance I get to talk to him, I talk to him."
Hall, still working his way back from a torn ACL he suffered at the beginning of last season, is eager to get on the field, but has remained on the sideline under coaches' orders. And it's there where he's still making an impact, observing Holsey and a handful of rookies and younger defensive backs, taking them aside for quick discussions between plays, circling numbers and calling out positions.
"It's really just trying to give them a little bit of my knowledge and you know, it's a back and forth," Hall made sure to say. "It's not a one-sided conversation. It's me asking him what he saw and what he's thinking, me telling him what I probably would have done in that situation, and us kind of coming up with a plan to put him in a position to make a play."
These kinds of "healthy discussions" as Hall calls them happen often at training campS across the NFL, when the 90-man roster is full of players just out of college looking to grasp as much pertinent information as possible in a limited amount of time. But Hall is in a rare position, entering his 14th NFL season, himself still grasping for knowledge as he continues what has been a bumpy, injury-filled transition to safety, which started two years ago.
"I think he's been a great mentor to that room," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He's a calming influence to those guys and he's still learning also, but he also uses his expertise, his knowledge and veteran leadership that he's learned over the years to help the younger guys out. He wants to get back on the field today, really. He's excited, but we also have to be safe and be smart with him. He's coming off that injury. But he's been a great influence on those guys. He works hard, he's in the meetings, and he's preparing like he's going to play, which is good. We'll probably need him eventually."
That belief continues to motivate Hall, who makes it clear multiple times in conversation that even though he's taking on a coaching role in Richmond, he's still has a player's mentality, which means he's eager to listen to a rookie cornerback's perspective ("I don't want it to feel like that, you know? I'm a player…I don't want to be confused for a coach at all, man").
The Washington Redskins defense and special teams conducted their second day of training camp practice Friday, July 28, 2017 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
Holsey hasn't been afraid to give him one. Despite their different introductions to the league – Hall was the eighth overall pick in 2004 while the Redskins took Holsey with 10 selections left in the final round last April – he's never been shy in expressing his opinions about a particular play or outcome. Along with defensive backs coaches Torrian Gray and James Rowe, the three of them give Holsey a distinct point of view.
"You know what you know but you can always know more, you know what I'm saying?" Holsey said. "I'm like an open book; I take in any type of knowledge that anybody wants to give me just to improve my game."
Hall has taken the same approach.
"You know, when you stop learning, it's the day you don't get better," Hall said. "So everyday I'm trying to get better. So everyday I'm constantly in my book, in the notes, you know, talking to guys, just trying to [have] conversations with coaches [and] coordinators, just trying to figure out, 'Hey is there a better way we can play this? Is there a better way that protects more people in the defense?'
"[I'm] always thinking from a corners perspective man," Hall added. "I tell young guys, as a corner, you want that eye on 90 percent of the game. If I can help you as a safety take that number to 80 or 85, maybe when you got those snaps up in playing lock down man-to-man, you'll be that much more in tune and ready to rock."
Holsey seems to be benefitting. He collected two interceptions of considerable difficulty in practice Friday and broke up another pass play Saturday intended for wide receiver Levern Jacobs. It's a good start – and he's made just as many mistakes – but Hall likes what he's seen so far from him.
In fact, Hall knew about Holsey before he met him, after speaking with Travaris Robinson, who played safety with Hall in Atlanta and coached defensive backs at Auburn in 2015 before taking over as the defensive coordinator at South Carolina. Hall said Robinson told him that Holsey was a good technician, a smart football player and to "take care of him." Hall has taken orders, and watched Holsey separate himself from the pack early.
"He's a hell of a player," Hall said. "There's no doubt he can play in this league. Because we're so deep, who knows what's going to happen, but the kid is going to be a player in this league."
Now, Holsey, who has battled adversity with two ACL injuries in college and has the support of his father, a Purple Heart recipient stationed in Washington, D.C., watching him at camp, must continue to learn, hold conversations and improve over the next few weeks.
"Just got to stay consistent, man," Holsey said. "It's all about being consistent. Camp is a grind so you got to stay consistent; pad, no pads, walk-throughs, meetings – you got to stay consistent on what you do best."