SAN FRANCISCO -- One play. Just one. The Redskins got their one play last week from the last-minute roster elevation on Brandon Banks' 53-yard punt return. Maybe Chad Hall, elevated from the practice squad on Saturday, can do the same thing. In a game like this, with the Eagles down some key players due to injury, you look for every edge. Hall, with his versatility and his quickness maybe can provide to the Eagles that one play that keeps the sticks moving, keeps a drive alive, helps this team win on the road.
The move to activate Hall was expected late in the week when it became apparent that Riley Cooper would be unable to play after suffering a concussion last Sunday. Instead of signing someone like veteran Kelley Washington, who was with the team in the preseason, the Eagles promoted Hall after watching him in practice during the week, after putting together a game plan and maybe including a nibble or two for Hall if the offense can get the matchup against Hall that they want.
To promote Hall, the Eagles waived defensive end Antwan Barnes, whom the Eagles acquired in a trade with Baltimore (giving the Ravens a late-round draft pick) in those frantic hours firming up the 53-man roster in September. Barnes started against Green Bay and then Detroit, but he was inactive the last two weeks. A speed edge rusher, Barnes may very well be back next week. Then again, he may not be back. Who knows in this crazy NFL?
Anyway, the focus is Hall and how he might fit in. Look, he's here to be a fourth wide receiver and to play on special teams. How much Hall actually plays from the line of scrimmage remains to be seen. Hall is a great, great story and a wonderful kid who dominated at Air Force and who then served his time in the military and was signed on the spot by the Eagles after turning in a brilliant workout during a pro day at the University of Utah.
Hall's physical dimensions do not exactly match up by NFL standards. He is teeny tiny, but he is a powder keg of quickness. Hall bounced back after hitting a wall in training camp and now has fresh legs and huge dreams.
This is going to be one of those edge-of-your-seats games, with very little margin for error. If the Eagles come out and commit a lot of penalties and make physical mistakes and don't play with urgency, they won't enjoy the outcome. But they should be very focused, very determined. The coaches are looking for advantages on every play, and if that means Hall gets a chance to line up in space, or take an end around, or whatever, the coaches will trust him to have the ball in his hands.
Banks made his impact last week to help Washington visit Lincoln Financial Field and beat the Eagles. He took Sav Rocca's first punt and sped up the sideline for 53 yards to give Donovan McNabb great field position. A few plays later, the Redskins scored a touchdown and took a lead they would not relinquish. One play. Brandon Banks, a player you probably never even knew, forced his way into the action on that single play, one that made a difference in Washington's win.
Hall is hoping to do the same on Sunday. One play. It could make all the difference in a game, in a season.