Going into the offseason, there was a great debate amongst New York Jets fans on whether or not the team needed to spend premium assets on improving the cornerback position.
While most admitted the franchise could use one extra CB, either in free agency or the draft, few expected a total overhaul of the starting unit with two big-name additions in D.J. Reed Jr. and Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner. The reason for that mindset was the emergence of Bryce Hall and Brandin Echols, two low-round draft picks that had shown loads of potential.
Hall, in particular, felt like a solid starting option moving forward. Over the first half of the 2021 season (before October 16), the Virginia product flaunted three elite stats — no red zone receptions allowed, third-most coverage snaps without a touchdown allowed, 12th-ranked coverage snaps without a reception average — and also “ranked second in the NFL with 17 forced incompletions (FIs)” over the entire campaign, “including a league-best six FIs inside the red zone” according to Rob Maaddi of the Associated Press.
Sure, there was a lack of interceptions and Hall did regress slightly as the year went along, but the overall talent was there. Now, he enters training camp projected as one of the top backup cornerbacks in football, and many wonder how these moves have impacted his mentality going forward.
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Hall Quotes NFL Legend: ‘You’re Your Own Biggest Competitor’
On an episode of the AP Pro Football Podcast, Maaddi conducted an exclusive interview with Hall. Although they talked about his daily training routine and “big dreams,” one of the most interesting questions was about his newfound competition at cornerback.
The 25-year-old has always appeared wise beyond his years and Hall’s response to Maaddi was as polished and astute as ever:
The mindset I try to take is you’re your own biggest competitor. I’ve heard Deion [Sanders] say — ‘Your biggest competitor isn’t with the guys that come to work, it’s the part of you that has to wake up each morning and put in the work. It’s the part of you that doesn’t want to watch film, but you know you have to watch film. It’s the part of you that’s saying I want to eat this, eat that, and you know you’ve got to take care of your body.’ And so I think for me, how I approach things is, there’s so many things I can control. I really try not to worry about what everybody else is doing, but just try to be the best me and I feel like if I do that, everything is going to take care of itself.
This type of quote is not uncommon among athletes but when you hear Hall speak the words, it’s not hard to see he means them. When discussing his best traits above, we left one out — leadership.
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A ‘Willing Mentor’
Not only is Hall taking the right approach to being practically replaced by Reed and Gardner, but the true team player also wants to help his challengers in any way he can.
“I remember when I first got in the league, there were guys older than me starting ahead of me, but they had no ego in sharing with me the knowledge and information that they had,” Hall told Maaddi. “And so I just kind of try to take the same approach.”
The AP reporter referred to him as a “willing mentor,” but he’s also a willing traveler.
Some NFL corners prefer one side or the other. A perfect example is Reed, who excelled at right CB in Seattle but struggled everywhere else. Despite Hall mostly starting on the left-hand side, Maaddi noted that the gamer allowed fewer receptions and a lower passer rating while traveling with the opposition’s top receiver.
“I love the challenge of it,” he explained. “When I look and study the best to do it, they’ve all traveled. They all have moved to different sides.” This skill will be key if Hall ends up playing the role of the primary backup in 2022.