Jets Cornerback Listed as ‘Breakout’ Star Ahead of 2021 Season

New York Jets players

Getty Members of the New York Jets secondary working their way through a drill at camp.

There are a lot of unknowns on this New York Jets roster which makes projecting how good or bad they’ll be that much more difficult.

One of the most polarizing topics on Gang Green social is their inexperienced crop of cornerbacks.

Will they be good? Will they be bad? None of us truly know until we see them in action on the football field. Although one expert was willing to put his name on the line for a certain member of this unproven secondary.

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A Potential Star in the Making?

NFL Network analysts are participating in a week-long series where they identify the top year-two breakout candidates across a variety of positions. On Thursday morning they revealed their picks for the cornerbacks.

Bryce Hall, the second-year corner out of Virginia, cracked the list at No. 8.

“Hall, whose final college campaign was derailed by an ankle injury, ended up missing the first half of his rookie season, but a strong finish to 2020 sets up the fifth-rounder to potentially play a big role in the Jets’ defense in 2021. With his long arms (32 1/4 inches), he has the kind of length that will no doubt appeal to new head coach Robert Saleh. Even setting that aside, there should be plenty of opportunities in one of the NFL’s youngest and most unproven secondaries.”

The former Cavaliers star was projected to go a lot higher in the 2020 NFL draft and then he suffered a devastating ankle injury which threw his draft stock out of whack. He ended up tumbling all the way to the fifth round where the green and white scooped him up with the No. 158 overall pick.

Gang Green was patient, waiting for the right time to pluck him in the draft and they were consistent in that patience once they reached the regular season. The team didn’t rush him back from injury and simply bided their time.

Hall ended up making his NFL debut in Week 9 vs the New England Patriots and after the re-acclimation game, he never looked back.

The rest of the way he played essentially 100 percent of the snaps from Week 10 onward.

There were certainly some bumps in the road, but there were also enough flashes that made general manager Joe Douglas say to himself, “I think we’ve got something here.”

That positivity and optimism were infectious enough to convince head coach Robert Saleh that they didn’t need to make any crazy upgrades in the 2021 NFL draft or in free agency. Instead, they decided as a collective that they’d give all the young guys on the roster a chance to grow and improve.

What’s It Going to Take to Reach That Next Level?

“Can you win on third down? It’s really that simple,” coach Saleh on what he’s looking for in his starting cornerbacks. “We’ve had different kinds of corners in this system from Richard Sherman who is long and incredibly smart. We’ve also had a guy like Jason Verrett who is all of 5-foot-9 and strong/wiry. They come in all shapes and sizes. That dog mentality, fearlessness to get up there and press in man coverage, all of that is important and it matters.”

Hall is likely going to be an outside starting cornerback for the Jets almost by default. There’s a lot of youth and inexperience, but no heavy hitters that are legitimate threats to take his gig.

That means it’ll be a lot of trial by fire this season for the talented corner.

Last year he was an incredible comeback story that was highlighted by his return to the football field after a tough injury in college. Now it’s no longer about the touchy-feely story, it’s about ball.

Being on the football field was a success in its’ own right, but now the expectations in that building are so much higher. With the number of opportunities, he’s going to receive it’ll be sink or swim in 2021, and one way or another he’ll be better for it in the long run.

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