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NY Jets: Is this Breece Hall ‘weakness’ overblown?

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Breece Hall, New York Jets, Getty Images

This aspect of Breece Hall’s game receives some criticism

New York Jets running back Breece Hall doesn’t receive much criticism, and rightfully so. In his first year coming off a torn ACL, Hall racked up 1,585 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns behind a putrid offensive line, all without missing a single game. He is on his way to taking the throne at the running back position.

Hall is about as complete of a back as they come. However, when people try to poke holes in his game, one critique is commonly mentioned: his performance in short-yardage situations.

Statistically, Hall was definitely not a good short-yardage runner in 2023. On third or fourth down with two or fewer yards to go, Hall moved the chains on just 7-of-13 attempts. That’s a conversion rate of 53.8%, which ranked 28th among the 31 running backs with at least 10 carries in those situations. For perspective, the average conversion rate among those 31 players was 67.4%.

But was Hall really at fault for those six failed short-yardage runs? Everyone knows the Jets had a brutal offensive line. What if Hall is a perfectly fine short-yardage runner who was made to look worse by horrid blocking?

Let’s get to the bottom of this by watching all 13 of Hall’s short-yardage runs in 2023 (3rd/4th down, ≤2 yards to go).

Breece Hall’s short-yardage film

FAILURE: Hall for 1 yard on 3rd & 2

I think Hall certainly deserves some blame for this one. While the Jets’ offensive line doesn’t create much push, they also don’t allow any penetration into the backfield. Hall is able to get back to the line of scrimmage untouched. The key block that allows Hall to do this comes from right guard Joe Tippmann, who climbs to meet the linebacker and stonewalls him about 1-2 yards downfield.

Hall first targets the B gap between Tippmann and right tackle Alijah Vera-Tucker. He wisely passes on it and continues scanning left. It’s here where I think Hall misses his opportunity. In my opinion, Hall would have had a good chance of converting this if he charged downhill into the A gap between Connor McGovern and Tippmann. He would have met the safety about one yard downfield, meaning he would only have to fall forward for one more yard to move the chains. Instead, he bounces outside and gets stuffed short of the line to gain.

The offensive line isn’t off the hook. Even after bouncing, Hall would have had the first down if not for a bad job setting the edge by Mekhi Becton (and Randall Cobb). Still, Hall got a little too bouncy here when there was a window to go downhill and move the chains.

  • Verdict: 50-50 blame for Hall and OL

SUCCESS: Hall for 6 yards on 4th & 1

The Jets gave Hall another chance on the next play following the previous clip, and he does a better job this time.

Outside of a great block from Tippmann that creates the hole Hall uses, this is very poorly blocked. The Patriots hold their ground at the line of scrimmage while two unblocked defenders fly into the backfield, one on each side. Hall has two defenders diving for him before he gets back to the line, and once he gets there, he runs into the nose tackle. But as opposed to the previous play, Hall runs with an aggressive downhill mentality from the moment he gets the ball, charging straight for the A gap with zero hesitation. This aggression allows him to power through the contact and get the first down, adding some extra yards on top of it.

  • Verdict: 75% credit to Hall, 25% to Tippmann

SUCCESS: Hall for 3 yards on 3rd & 1

Stellar play by Hall. The middle is immediately clogged by Fletcher Cox, who splits right guard Wes Schweitzer and right tackle Max Mitchell. This prompts Hall to bounce outside, where there initially seems to be a sea of space, but the gap is filled by the back side linebacker. Hall throws a slick spin move to evade the linebacker and get the first down.

Look how efficiently he executes all of this. Gets the ball. Two steps vertical; right, then left. Pushes off his left foot to hop right. Then, as he lands off the hop, he spins directly out of it with no wasted motion.

This conversion is all Hall.

  • Verdict: 100% credit to Hall

FAILURE: Hall for no gain on 3rd & 1

This one is entirely on the offensive line, particularly Max Mitchell. He gets dominated so badly that it takes away both the inside and outside lanes. Hall can’t go inside because Mitchell got tossed into that gap, and he can’t go outside because the DT is waiting after easily dispatching Mitchell. Hall tries to bounce it outside but there are two more defenders waiting; one coming head-on and another on the edge. There’s nowhere to go.

  • Verdict: Total blame on offensive line

FAILURE: Hall for 1 yard on 3rd & 2

Another one that is entirely the offensive line’s fault, especially Mitchell. The 2-tech DT instantly plants Mitchell in the ground, clogging up the middle. Because Mitchell is eating turf, he can’t get up to the linebacker, leaving him unblocked into the middle. Hall’s only option is to bounce this outside, which he does promptly.

But once he gets outside, Hall is immediately bracketed by two defenders. Tyler Conklin gets bull rushed deep into the backfield and lets the defender spin off him. The safety is unblocked and drops down to set the edge. Hall does a good job of putting his head down and driving between the two defenders to get whatever he can out of this.

  • Verdict: Total blame on offensive line

SUCCESS: Hall for 2 yards on 4th & 1

On the ensuing fourth down, the Jets put the ball back in Hall’s hands, this time on a Wildcat formation. The Jets do a pretty decent job of blocking this. The entire line slides right except for the right guard, Mitchell, who pulls left to lead Hall to the edge. Fullback Nick Bawden also goes left. The idea is to bait the Chargers into biting inside so Hall can get to the left edge behind Mitchell and Bawden. It works fairly successfully.

As for Hall, he does a good job of patiently pressing the line to let the blocks develop. Once he sees the gap open up, he makes himself skinny and gets vertical to plow through.

  • Verdict: Good blocking leads to success

FAILURE: Hall for no gain on 3rd & 1

100% on the O-line yet again. Taking the handoff out of the gun, the inside is shut down before Hall even gets the ball, as left guard Laken Tomlinson lets his man get across his face. Tippmann’s man also establishes inside leverage, so there are two defenders in the A gap when Hall gets the rock. It’s an easy read to turn this outside. But when he does, the linebacker is already charging at him, as Becton misses his block at the second level. Hall tries to put his head down and grind out the one yard he needs, but three other Raiders join in on the tackle.

While Tomlinson did not do well here at all, I mostly blame this on Becton. He overcommitted helping Tomlinson on the first level, which caused him to miss his second-level block. If Becton kicked out the second-level LB, Tomlinson letting the DT inside would have been a blessing, as Hall could have run between Tomlinson and Becton.

  • Verdict: Total blame on offensive line

FAILURE: Hall for 1 yard on 3rd & 2

Hall is partially at fault for this one. On this wide zone run out of the gun, Hall begins his read to the left side. Becton, Tomlinson, and Tippmann create good front-side movement, and it initially appears that Jake Hanson has front-side leverage on his defender, so Hall decides to cut into the A gap between Tippmann and Hanson.

However, Hanson lets his defender cross his face while Hall is in the middle of his vertical cut, so Hall quickly tries to cut the run back, where a large gap is waiting for him. Hall’s cutback attempt is clunky, causing him to stumble and slip. This allows the defender to catch him.

Hall’s decision-making was fine, and he would have had this if Hanson executed his block, but Hall deserves some blame for bungling a cutback opportunity.

  • Verdict: 50-50 blame for Hall and OL

SUCCESS: Hall for 4 yards on 3rd & 1

Good blocking by the Jets on this crack toss. Pretty easy read and run for Hall.

  • Verdict: Good blocking leads to success

SUCCESS: Hall for 5 yards on 3rd & 1

Good read by Hall. As he takes the handoff, he sees Becton creating a ton of outside movement on the edge defender, so he knows he can run horizontally to outrun any inside penetrators and get to the huge gap on the edge. Hall flattens his angle and darts past Tomlinson’s man, using a good stiff arm to deflect the tackle attempt. He then cuts up the field, and at this point, he’s already got the first down thanks to Becton’s block, but he shows some toughness as he keeps grinding for a few extra yards.

Becton deserves the most credit for making this conversion possible. Hall does a nice job capitalizing, though.

  • Verdict: Good blocking leads to success

SUCCESS: Hall for 10 yards on 3rd & 1

The Jets make the interesting choice of leaving Myles Garrett unblocked and crack-blocking him with… Xavier Gipson? Only seven inches and 83 pounds separate these players.

It actually works quite well as the Jets get Garrett to bite downhill and vacate the edge. Gipson gets just enough of Garrett to deter his tackle attempt. Give Hall credit for securing a high toss from Trevor Siemian with Garrett right in his face. Garrett even gets his hands on Hall and has a chance to grab his hips, but Hall runs through it.

From there, this is easy. The edge is wide open with Garrett in the backfield. Jason Brownlee makes a great crack block and Becton does a good job in space.

Pretty easy one for Hall, mostly cooked up by a good play-call and good blocking.

  • Verdict: Good blocking/play-calling leads to success

SUCCESS: Hall for 3 yards on 3rd & 1

Good blocking by the Jets allows Hall to pick this up despite the handoff being delayed by a high snap. Tomlinson picks up the blitzing LB and seals him out of the play. Tyler Conklin and Becton plow the road for Hall with a powerful combo block. Easy one for Hall.

  • Verdict: Good blocking leads to success

FAILURE: Hall for -3 yards on 4th & 1

Off the snap, the center and right guard drive the 1-tech DT downfield, creating a hole up the middle that Hall wants to use, but he cuts it outside when the gap closes due to Becton being thrown into the lane and right tackle Carter Warren letting his man gain inside leverage. Hall keeps bouncing outside but ultimately can’t find anything against a Patriots defense with nearly every defender lined up either in or close to the box.

With only one yard to go, I would have liked to see Hall get aggressive off the handoff and take that A gap. Despite Warren’s man being in the gap and Becton being in the way, I wonder if Hall could have gotten this if he just put his head down and tried to squeak through. It’s hard to blame him too much, though. He read the play as he would be coached to; if the gap is closed, move to the next one. Unfortunately, nothing else was there after he kept scanning. Still, it’s another play where Hall may have been a little too patient in a short-yardage situation (especially on fourth down).

  • Verdict: 50-50 blame for Hall and OL

So, is Breece Hall a poor short-yardage runner?

Out of Hall’s six failed conversions, I tallied three in which the offensive line deserved full blame and three in which Hall and the blocking shared blame. So, half of his failed conversions were not his fault at all, and none of them were entirely his fault.

Still, there were three failures in which Hall shared some blame, so he has room to improve in this area. In particular, he should try to be less bouncy in these situations. I’d like to see him adopt a more aggressive, downhill mentality in short-yardage situations; the second clip above (4th & 1 vs. NE) is a perfect example. Hall excels at running through contact thanks to his strong lower body. As long as the offensive line lets him get back to the line of scrimmage with a head of steam, churning out one or two extra yards after contact is a cakewalk for him.

On the positive side, I also tallied two successful plays in which Hall was almost entirely responsible for the conversion, overcoming poor blocking to move the chains. That cancels out some of the plays in which he may have been at fault for a failure.

Here’s the full count:

  • 5 successes created primarily by blocking
  • 2 successes created primarily by Hall (1 entirely by Hall, 1 mostly by Hall)
  • 3 failures entirely blamed on OL
  • 3 failures with split blame on OL/Hall

Overall, I’d say Hall is a slightly above-average short-yardage runner for now. He’s certainly not as bad as his 7-for-13 conversion rate suggests, but he also isn’t elite quite yet.

Put it this way: Any running back would have gotten the 5 successes that were well-blocked, and any running back would have missed the 3 failures that were poorly blocked. The other five plays are where Hall’s impact comes in. There were 3 failures that I charted as 50-50 on him; chalk that up as -1.5 conversions (-0.5 each). There were 2 successes that I charted him as primarily responsible for, one being entirely his doing (the Philly run) and another being mostly him with one good block by Tippmann (vs. Pats). Give him full credit for the Philly run and 75% credit for the Pats run, and that’s +1.75, canceling out his negatives and ultimately making him a slight positive. This is how it all shakes out in my analytical brain.

Hall has the potential to be a stellar short-yardage runner, but I need to see more consistent aggressiveness from him before I can call him “good” or better. Still, despite his bad short-yardage numbers, I cannot call him a “bad” short-yardage runner when considering how many insurmountable stuffs he was forced to absorb. He also created a couple of conversions on his own despite poor blocking.

Hall is elite in many aspects of the running back position, but this is an area where he still has some room to improve. With better blocking in front of him this year, Hall should aim to establish himself as one of the most efficient short-yardage runners in the NFL. He has all the tools to do it. Hall may also benefit from more opportunities; his 13 short-yardage carries ranked just 22nd among running backs.

Even if Hall remains pedestrian in this area, the good news is that the Jets have two powerful young runners in Braelon Allen and Isaiah Davis who offer potential in the short-yardage game.

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Steve Parello
20 days ago

Thanks for the break down, Michael. Two things I noticed here were that Tippman was consistently the best OL in these situations, and when Hall decided he wouldn’t be denied and was aggressive, he usually picked up the first down.

It seems that at times he didn’t trust his OL (for good reason) which made him tentative and led to the failures. Hopefully the OL improvements pan out and be runs with more faith in them in these situations. Also, it’s really nice to have Allen/Davis to take some of these off his plate and preserve him a bit as the season wears on.