One young New York Jets defender quietly dominated against the Tennessee Titans
Zach Wilson will draw all of the headlines, and deservedly so. The highlight reels will feature plenty of magic from the rejuvenated wide receiver unit, the terrifying pass rush, and the electric linebacker duo of C.J. Mosley and Quincy Williams – once again, deservedly so.
But the New York Jets’ best player against the Tennessee Titans was none other second-year cornerback Bryce Hall.
The Jets were given a massive break this week as the Titans were without star receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. That gave the Jets’ young cornerback unit – which has been playing great – a favorable matchup against a banged-up wide receiver core.
Facing a depleted opponent does not diminish a player’s accomplishments against that team. It simply raises the bar for what is expected. When a player is given a favorable matchup like that one, the goal is simple: don’t just win the battle, dominate it.
And that’s exactly what Hall did. He looked like a man amongst boys when covering Tennessee’s backup wideouts.
Hall was targeted eight times by Ryan Tannehill and yielded just two catches for 27 yards (3.4 yards per target). He got his hands on more footballs than Tennessee’s receivers did, collecting three pass breakups.
What makes Hall’s performance in coverage most impressive is the fact that he was frequently asked to take on difficult assignments.
Yes, Tennessee’s wide receiver unit was made up of unintimidating names like Josh Reynolds, Cameron Batson, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, but the Titans boast an overpowering run game led by Derrick Henry that forces opponents to load the box and leave their corners on islands.
Because the Jets were loading up the box to stop Henry, Hall was often isolated one-on-one against a receiver as the primary read in a concept. Hall frequently won those reps convincingly to prompt Tannehill to move to his next read, creating a bevy of sacks, check-downs, and missed throws. The Jets’ defensive front owes a lot to Hall’s coverage for its whopping total of seven sacks.
Tennessee loves to use the threat of its run game to call play-action rollouts for Tannehill. Since Tannehill is a right-handed quarterback, most of these calls are designed to get him moving to his right. That gets him going toward Hall’s side of the field, as Hall always stays put on the defense’s left side (offense’s right) for the entire game.
Hall consistently had to guard the primary receiver of these concepts in man-to-man coverage on an island, and he got the job done almost every time to eliminate a bevy of big plays.
The Virginia product showed good play recognition to understand these routes were coming, consistently dropping back into coverage quickly without biting hard on the run fake. He displayed sound coverage technique as he attached himself to the receiver’s back hip, flipped his hips to turn and run at the correct time, and stuck with them as they got into their fade, corner, and out routes.
As a cherry on top, Hall was active as a blitzer, racking up a half-sack and a knockdown for a total of two quarterback hits.
Hall became just the second Jets cornerback to record three passes defended and two quarterback hits since QB hits were first tracked in 2006, joining Darrelle Revis, who did it against the Buffalo Bills in his 2007 rookie season.
This was a special performance for the 24-year-old, who is still only 12 games into his NFL career. It is hard for a cornerback to have a much better game than the one he enjoyed against Tennessee.
If you put a replacement-level corner in Hall’s shoes that afternoon, the Titans likely would have translated their run-game success into a boatload of big plays through the air off of play-action – but Hall’s coverage excellence in one-on-one situations prevented that from happening.