Hall hoping to stick as Eagles' sixth wide receiver

Chad Hall caught 11 passes and scored a touchdown for the Eagles last season.
Chad Hall caught 11 passes and scored a touchdown for the Eagles last season. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: September 01, 2011

IT HAS ALWAYS been a waiting game for Chad Hall.

In a perfect world, you'd think the fact that Hall, a 5-8 receiver, already had proved himself to the Eagles by making the 2010 squad after serving 2 years as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force would hold a little more weight.

There is no perfect formula for making an NFL roster.

So while Hall entered 2011 having played in eight games for the Eagles with 11 catches and a touchdown, his status is only slightly less tenuous than it was a year ago when he was an undrafted free agent.

Hall is in the numbers game.

If the Eagles keep six receivers, Hall is likely to be last one in.

If the Eagles only keep five as they did last season, Hall probably will be the last one out.

"I really don't worry about counting the numbers," said Hall, who leads the Eagles with nine catches for 116 yards in the preseason. "The only thing that you can control is that you go out and work hard every day and then take advantage of your opportunities by playing as well as you can.

"It's a business. You learn that quickly once you've been in this league."

Another reminder came on Saturday when receivers Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith joined the Eagles in practice.

Maclin is No. 1 on the Eagles' depth chart opposite DeSean Jackson. It was just a matter of time before he recovered from a viral infection and returned to his spot.

The situation with Smith, a former Pro Bowl receiver with the New York Giants, is the one that could most impact Hall's status.

Smith was signed by the Eagles while he was still recovering from microfracture surgery. At the time there was no guarantee that Smith would be able to play within the first 6 weeks of the season.

But by joining in practice, Smith is no longer eligible to be placed on the physically unable to perform list for the first 6 weeks.

If Smith makes the roster, he will count as one of the players on the 53-man roster from the start.

"The key is to just keep being able to go out there day after day," Smith said Tuesday. "I just need to pace myself.

"I've pushed [the knee] a lot and it's responded really well. The coaches have kind of held me back a little bit. It's about doing the smart thing, but we're increasing things daily. I like how I'm feeling right now."

If Smith can return to full form, the Eagles have a receiver who has 220 catches for 2,386 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first four seasons.

In 2009, Smith set a Giants record with 107 catches. He had 1,220 receiving yards and a team-high seven touchdown catches.

Limited to just nine games last season because of the knee injury, Smith still had 48 catches for 529 yards.

The 48 catches would have ranked fourth on the team and third among Eagle receivers last season.

And that brings us back to Hall.

If everyone is healthy, the first five receivers appear to be Jackson, Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper and Smith.

If the Eagles again want to expose Jackson to the game-to-game dangers of punt returns, they likely will need a sixth receiver to do that.

Veteran receiver Sinorice Moss has handled most of the punt and kickoff-return duty during the preseason, but he has no receptions. History says the Eagles do not prefer to use a roster spot on a guy who only handles punts and kickoffs.

The versatility Hall showed last season could be what swings a roster spot in his favor.

Hall handled three punts and had four kickoff returns a year ago. He also had nine rushes. But Hall doesn't allow those kinds of equations to enter his thoughts.

He knows his ticket to the Eagles' roster lies in him taking nothing for granted and knowing that every play of every practice or game could be the one that earns or costs him a job.

"It keeps me sharp," Hall said. "I know that I have to prove myself each and every day, each and every year.

"I can't take a play off, whether it's in a game or in practice. I kind of like the challenge. I feel confident in what I've been doing and I've just got to continue it through these final days."


For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/Smallwood.

 

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