Could the New York Jets’ rumored plans for a big CB move be an indictment on Bryce Hall?
This past weekend, DJ Bien-Aime of the New York Daily News said in an interview that he heard from a high-ranking Jets source that the team may be interested in using a “premium asset” on the cornerback position this offseason.
While I wholeheartedly agree and hope that the Jets target a cornerback in the draft – particularly Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner – the other part of Bien-Aime’s report was much more shocking.
Bien-Aime suggested in his report that the team may not be particularly high on cornerback Bryce Hall. Most notably, Bien-Aime reported that he heard from a Jets source that an opposing offensive coordinator told them they specifically targeted Hall because of his lack of ball skills.
“One guy told me he had an offensive coordinator come up to him after the game and tell him that ‘we were going after 37, because we knew he doesn’t have any ball skills, and we knew that he wasn’t going to intercept the ball. So if we go at him and we get an incompletion, we’re cool with that because we know it’s not going to turn into a turnover,'” Bien-Aime said.
Jets X-Factor writer Oliver Cochrane recently broke down some key stats for the Jets’ primary trio of cornerbacks in 2021 here. From his analysis, he found that Hall compares favorably against the rest of the league in every statistic except interceptions.
In light of the rumors surrounding Hall, I decided to do a deeper dive into games where Hall was more heavily targeted to see if he was still successful in those instances despite failing to land any interceptions.
Did teams target Hall more?
Bien-Aime’s report claims that teams intentionally went after Hall due to his lack of playmaking ability. Was that the case?
Throughout the season, Hall was targeted on 14% of his coverage snaps, a rate that is slightly better than average when compared to the average among qualified cornerbacks, which was 14.2%.
I broke Hall’s season down into two halves (Weeks 1-10 and 11-18) to see if teams changed their approach against him. It does appear that teams started targeting him more as the season went on. Hall went from an elite rate of 11.5% to a not-so-impressive rate of 16.6%.
Part of that increase can be attributed to a change in Hall’s role during the season. Over the first 10 weeks, Hall never moved off the left side of the field. But starting in Week 11, Hall began to shadow receivers more often, occasionally following players to the right side of the field.
How did Hall perform when targeted more?
Hall still got the job done in coverage during the second half of the season despite the increase in targets.
Hall’s completion rate allowed dropped from 63.4% during the first 10 weeks to 55.8% over the final eight weeks. His average yards allowed per coverage snap went up slightly from 0.947 to 0.965 but that was still well below the league average among qualified cornerbacks of 1.13.
Even Hall’s passer rating when targeted improved from a poor 113.6 to a respectable 91.9. Pro Football Focus was less kind dropping his coverage grade from 68.3 (25th among 79 qualified corners) to 58.4 (44th among 65).
In each half of the season, Hall allowed three touchdowns and recorded seven pass breakups.
To further break down Hall’s ability to stand up against a high volume of targets, I looked at the games where Hall was targeted at least six times.
In the seven games that Hall faced at least six targets, he allowed four touchdowns, 377 yards, and 32 receptions on 60 targets (53.3% completion rate / 6.3 yards per target) while recording nine pass breakups.
In the other 10 games, Hall allowed two touchdowns, 261 yards, and 23 receptions on 33 targets (69.7% completion rate / 7.9 yards per target) while recording five pass breakups. So, Hall actually saw some improvement on a per-target basis in games where he faced a lot of targets.
This is the area Bryce Hall struggles most with. While he is routinely in great position and can break up passes, he has failed to get his head around to make interceptions. This year alone there were multiple easily interceptable passes that he failed to come away with.
Hall offered a glimmer of hope as a rookie when he intercepted one pass (a beautiful one-hander in Los Angeles) on only 44 targets. This is a rate of 2.27%, not far behind the 2021 average among qualified cornerbacks of 2.6%.
This is an area I believe Hall will improve in but likely never truly be great.
In his breakout 2018 sophomore season at the University of Virginia, Hall ranked second in the nation with 18 pass breakups, per Pro Football Focus. However, even then, he still only had two interceptions.
Hall has the potential to be a lockdown corner but it’s unlikely he will be forcing interceptions at a high rate.
Hall is a good corner, but he’s not great… yet
Overall, Bryce Hall compares fairly well across the league. He was one of only 13 cornerbacks to play over 1,000 snaps in 2021. He consistently mirrors his receiver and gets his hands on the ball even if he fails to get interceptions.
In only his second season, Hall forced 17 incompletions, ranking second in the NFL behind only Marshon Lattimore of the Saints. Most importantly, he played at a high level in the red zone where he led the NFL with six forced incompletions.
Bryce Hall: 6 forced incompletions on red zone passes this season, most among all Cornerbacks pic.twitter.com/bnmdi9QL5Y
— PFF NY Jets (@PFF_Jets) February 10, 2022
I believe Hall can become a legitimate star cornerback in the league. However, the Jets should still add more talent at the position. While I personally believe the Jets should sign a mid-tier veteran, I’m open to a large move.
The top two names seem to be J.C. Jackson in free agency and Ahmad Gardner in the draft.
Jackson is only 26 and has established himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL but will be extremely expensive.
Gardner is my favorite cornerback prospect I’ve ever seen with a dominant college career. Over his career, he never allowed a single touchdown in coverage, and this past year he did not allow a single completion in the red zone.
Regardless, general manager Joe Douglas has done an amazing job infusing the cornerback room with young talent. A single big addition, along with healthy safeties and defensive linemen, would elevate the unit to a high level.
I’m excited to continue to watch Bryce Hall improve and get the respect he deserves.