Kickoff is fast approaching in downtown Denver, and the Broncos are keyed up, few moreso than kickoff returner and running back Andre Hall.
Hard work and extra work usually yields results. That’s why every day, Andre Hall is one of the last players off the practice field — if not the last player outright, working on his kickoff returns with special teams coordinator Scott O’Brien.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I stay out here,” Hall said. “He gives me pointers so when it’s game time, I already know what’s going to happen; I already know what to expect and I already know how it’s going to go. I’m comfortable because of ‘Scotty O.’”
Prior to this season, it had been three years since Hall handled any kind of full-time kickoff coverage work, with that coming during his junior season at South Florida. But in spite of his inexperience with the work, he’s replied like a seasoned veteran, averaging 26.8 yards per return. That places him sixth among all kickoff returners with at least five runbacks since Week 8.
But of greater significance is Hall’s impact on the entire team’s return output.
In Weeks 1-7, the Broncos averaged 23.4 yards per kickoff return, ranking them 18th in the league. Since Week 8, when Hall became the primary kickoff returner, the Broncos rank fourth in the league, averaging 25.8 yards per return.
Hall’s style of returning may seem simple — just sprinting forward, without hesitation — may make his success seem like a triumph of simplicity, but it’s much deeper than that.
“It seems like I’m just running up in there, but I set it up before I do that,” Hall said. “A lot of people don’t see it. Hopefully the kickoff (coverage) team doesn’t see it. But I set it up before I get to my hole, and by the time I see my gap, I hit it. That’s all it is.”
And while O’Brien has worked with him on the nuances of returning, it’s longtime running backs coach Bobby Turner who has influenced Hall’s style, emphasizing the tried-and-true “one cut and go” philosophy of ball-carrying.
“It teaches me not to stutter-step, not to wait around for something to happen,” Hall said. “Hit it. It’s hard for a defender to tackle someone when they’re going full speed.”
Hall came close to breaking a return for a touchdown. He thinks he might break through tonight.
“I think this might be the week,” he said. “Monday Night Football; everybody’s going to be pumped up. They’re going to be coming down so fast.
“I want to set it up just perfect and get up and out of there.”
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