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NY Jets: This Breece Hall criticism isn’t totally valid

NY Jets, Breece Hall, Stats, Drops
Breece Hall, New York Jets, Getty Images

Breece Hall’s primary weakness requires context to be fully understood

New York Jets running back Breece Hall was mostly spectacular during his shortened rookie season. But the numbers say he had one huge weakness: drops.

According to Pro Football Focus, Hall had five drops, which ended up tying him for the fourth-most among running backs in 2022 despite missing 10 games. Since Hall had only 19 receptions (43rd among RB), his drop rate was 20.8%. That was the worst rate among 42 running backs with at least 30 targets. It was also more than triple the league average for running backs (6.9%).

That’s… pretty bad. By looking at those numbers, you would think Hall had hands of stone.

But when you watch the footage of Hall’s drops, a different story is told.

It’s important to remember that not all drops are the same. Some drops are freebies that the receiver should definitely catch 99% of the time. But some drops are actually quite difficult for the receiver to catch, even if it hits their hands. Whether it’s a poorly placed throw or the catch is heavily contested, receivers often get tagged with drops on tough plays just because it hit their hands or body. It’s controversial to even label these as “drops”.

There is a wide spectrum of severity for drops, yet they all get lumped into the same statistical category, therefore treating them as if they are all the same. This is why it is always a good idea to go back and watch the tape to contextualize a player’s drop rate.

As we’re about to see, Hall’s drops heavily leaned toward the more difficult end of the spectrum. His drops were generally not “easy” catches, even if they were catchable.

I’m not pointing this out to completely excuse Hall. He still must eliminate these drops from his game, no matter how easy or hard those drops may have been. This is certainly a weakness for him. The point of this breakdown is to show that it may not be as severe of a weakness as his drop rate would suggest.

To learn about where Hall truly stands as a pass-catcher and how he can get better, let’s take a look at the five plays that were charted as drops for Hall in 2022.

Breece Hall’s drops in 2022

This pass is catchable, but it’s certainly not an easy grab. On a screen pass to Hall (who lines up out wide), Joe Flacco overcompensates for the defender in the throwing lane as he places the ball high and outside of Hall’s frame.

Hall leaps, extends his arms upward and to the left, and gets two hands on the ball as it passes above his shoulder. It’s hard to see exactly what happens at the catch point, but it looks like Hall starts to close his hands too late, causing the ball to bounce off his fingertips before he could squeeze it.

While you don’t want to see Hall let too many of those slip by him, I cannot expect him to catch this particular pass more than 50% of the time at best. That would have been a good-looking snag, so I won’t crush him for not making it.

Hall breaks wide open on the wheel route. Flacco rushes the throw from a clean pocket and puts the ball too far behind Hall, forcing him to slow down and contort his body back to it.

Hall rotates back toward the quarterback and manages to get two hands underneath the ball, about waist-high, but because his momentum is carrying him down the field, he loses the ball as he tries to pull it in.

You’d like Hall to catch this more often than not. Whereas I estimated the first play had a 50% catch probability, this one is probably somewhere from 60-70% in my opinion. Still, it’s not an easy grab by any means. Hall is uncovered on a wheel route, which means he is streaking downfield at nearly full speed and expecting Flacco to lead him deep. To stop your momentum and turn back to the ball at this speed is not easy.

Still, Flacco put the ball in a spot where Hall had a reasonable chance to catch it. The vertical placement of the throw was fine, as it allowed Hall to get two hands on the ball without having to rise up or dig down.

I’d put this one more on the quarterback than Hall – that is too easy of a throw for Flacco to miss it by that much – but it’s fair to say Hall should have bailed Flacco out. Again, though, this is another drop that was initiated by a bad throw.

This was probably Hall’s easiest drop, and even this one is not a gimme.

Hall runs an angle route out of the backfield. Flacco puts this one a little high, but it’s not terribly high, and the horizontal placement is accurate. Hall takes a slight leap and is able to pinpoint the ball but it goes straight through his hands.

You can clearly see why Hall whiffed on the catch: He takes his eyes off the ball to check on the safety coming downhill, who is positioned to give Hall a clean shot (which he does anyway).

Even if he caught the ball initially, Hall might have lost it after the hit, which came very quickly after Hall returned to the ground. It was dangerous of Flacco to lead Hall into the defender with a high pass (a “hospital ball” as they call it), so I will cut Hall some slack due to the danger of the situation. Still, even before the hit, Hall already let an imperfect-but-not-awful pass slip right through his hands.

This was Hall’s worst drop, in my opinion, and yet, it still includes multiple other variables that make it at least somewhat understandable. It’s not egregious – none of Hall’s drops were.

I understand why the first three plays were counted as drops, but this is a play where I disagree with the decision to label it as a drop. Perhaps others disagree, but this does not meet my criteria of what I would call a drop.

Hall has his defender beat vertically. Zach Wilson badly underthrows the ball, forcing Hall to completely stop his momentum and come back to it. Hall has to work through the defender, who extends his arm and contests the pass. Hall tries diving into the ball in an effort to beat the defender to it.

The ball gets by the defender and into Hall’s bread basket (whether or not the defender tipped the ball is hard to see, although he was not officially credited with a deflection). It goes through Hall’s arms.

Could Hall have caught this? Absolutely. But it would have been one hell of a catch – easily his best of the season and one of the best by any Jet. This is a play where you fully expect the pass to fall incomplete. If he converted catches of this difficulty level at even just a 25-30% rate, that would be legendary.

This is not a drop in my book.

Here is another extremely questionable one. Hall chips the edge rusher and then leaks into the flat. Wilson throws the ball high and behind. Hall tries to contort back to the ball but cannot pinpoint it due to the difficult angle. It goes through his hands and bounces off his helmet. Hall also gets hit a split second later.

For me, this is another incorrectly labeled play. I can’t call something a “drop” if I think the receiver has less than a 50% chance of making the play, and that applies here in my opinion.

This is a really hard catch. Wilson’s placement on this throw is terrible. Hall is running toward the sideline and has to try and catch the ball on his back shoulder, about head-high, knowing there is a defender trailing him.

Catchable? I… guess. Drop? No.

There’s room for Hall to improve his catching, but don’t overreact to his drop numbers

When you hear that a player has a lot of drops, it makes you think the player is prone to missing wide-open dunks on the fastbreak. While that is the case in some instances, it is not the issue with Hall. He has no issue catching the 99-percenters. None of the drops we saw today made Jets fans say, “Oh come on, how do you not catch that?” when they watched it live.

Where Hall must improve is catching the imperfect passes. Yes, none of the throws we watched today were gimmes, and a couple of them probably shouldn’t even be called “drops”. However, they were all catchable to some extent. Catching every single imperfect throw is asking too much of anyone, but it’s fair to say Hall must aim to catch a higher rate of the imperfect passes thrown his way in the future.

For the most part, Hall only caught the easy passes in 2022. Anything that wasn’t routine got him into trouble. Specifically, he can improve at catching passes that are high, behind, or contested.

There are a couple of things Hall can clean up to help him catch more of these passes. Firstly, I think he does have a habit of taking his eyes off the ball and looking at incoming defenders before he secures the catch. It’s easy for me to say Hall should do less of this as I am typing on a keyboard, far away from the pressure of being pursued by a 220-pound world-class athlete who wants to take my head off, but it seems like he does it a little more often than the typical running back.

I also think Hall can do a better job of attacking the football. Sometimes, he will wait for the ball to reach his hands rather than stabbing it, which occasionally led to the pass sailing through his hands.

Of course, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback rather than the unstoppable duo of Joe Flacco and Zach Wilson, Hall probably won’t see as many imperfect passes as he did in 2022. But nobody is flawless. Rodgers will definitely throw some passes to Hall that force him to make an extra effort. These are the passes Hall must improve at catching.

To summarize, I wouldn’t say Hall necessarily has “drop” issues. Those numbers were inflated due to his terrible quarterbacks. The more inaccurate throws, the more opportunities for the type of plays that qualify to be labeled as drops (even if they aren’t actually drops). However, I would say Hall can improve at making catches that aren’t a walk in the park.

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