In his debut season, New York Jets fifth-round rookie CB Bryce Hall demonstrated qualities that warrant confidence he can become a building block.
The journey to New York …
In 2018, Hall excelled during his junior season for the Virginia Cavaliers. Hall led the nation with 22 pass breakups. That impressive number landed him a spot on the All-ACC First Team and the Walter Camp All-America Second Team.
With a decision regarding his future looming, Hall opted to return to the Cavaliers’ campus for his senior season. Given his standout play, Hall positioned himself to be in the conversation with other highly regarded prospects for the 2020 NFL draft.
However, the course of his future changed on the night of Oct. 11, 2019. Unfortunately, Hall suffered a significant leg injury while blocking on the punt return team late in the first half of a game against the University of Miami, ending his college football career.
Once considered an early-round draft prospect, Hall’s draft stock was drastically altered as it became uncertain when he would hear his name called that upcoming April.
On draft weekend, Hall continued to tumble further and further down the board to the surprise of many. Finally, in the fifth round, Joe Douglas and the Jets took a chance on the talented Virginia product.
2020 rookie season
Hall’s recovery continued through the start of the 2020 NFL season. As the Jets struggled mightily week after week, the conversation mid-season shifted toward the future of the organization – which players on the current roster can be considered building blocks moving forward?
Finally, Hall got a chance to prove that he could be one of those building blocks when he made his anxiously-awaited debut in Week 9 against the New England Patriots. After seeing limited action in that game, he went on to start the remaining seven games of the season.
To say Hall was thrown into the fire early is an understatement. In his first start, he saw plenty of matchups with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Then followed DeVante Parker, Darren Waller, D.K. Metcalf and the Rams’ multi-talented WR group.
Sure, did we see Hall get beat by DeVante Parker on a couple of back-shoulder throws? Yes. Did Hall get called for pass interference in an attempt to cover Kennan Allen? Yes. Was he a victim to DK Metcalf’s fade route to the back pylon? Yes.
What I’m here to tell you and then show you is …
The transition to the NFL for a cornerback is extremely difficult. Of course, you’ll find plays where he gets beat for a completion. And given the nature of the position, those plays will happen in the future.
What’s important at this stage of his career is to analyze his technique, positioning, and understanding of his responsibilities.
Fortunately, the totality of his rookie film shows encouraging signs of a bright future that leads me to the confident opinion that Bryce Hall is a building block for the Jets defense.
I’ve broken down a variety of plays that capture the following:
- His technique in soft press man to man coverage
- His read, react and tackling skills combined with discipline in zone coverage
- An example of having the all-important short memory
Let’s get to the film.
Technique in Man to Man Coverage
Hall often played in man coverage utilizing the soft press technique. The above video contains a breakdown of two plays from his first start. The first play features a matchup with Mike Williams, who runs a vertical route. The second features a matchup with Kennan Allen, who runs a stop.
In soft press, Hall will be lined up with about 2-3 yards of separation between him and the WR. This requires patience, eye discipline and timing. The goal is to have active feet, watch the WR’s movements, keep leverage and break outside into your man turn or inside based on the WR’s route.
Both plays required Hall to get into his man turn. Once in his man turn, he did a great job of keeping a good relationship with the WR; staying on his hip. Great positioning resulted in two incompletions – fantastic stuff for a young rookie against a pair of NFL studs.
Let’s move on to Hall’s short memory. As I previously mentioned, there are going to be plays that do not go your way.
In man coverage, Hall sees a slant route from Parker. Without active feet at the snap, Hall ends up positioned far ahead of Parker allowing him to cut underneath to the slant. The result is a completion, missed tackle, and big gain.
A short memory is required for a cornerback. The second play above has Hall again in soft press against DeVante Parker just a quarter later. This time, Hall has active feet, keeps his shoulders square, and breaks with Parker to the slant. As the quarterback releases, Hall gets his left arm on Parker’s upfield shoulder and his right arm over the top into the passing lane to break up the pass.