Bryce Hall has, at least nominally, been in the running for starting cornerback for the past few weeks.
It’s fair to say, though, that rivalry is likely over after Monday night’s 24-16 Jets preseason win against the Falcons at MetLife Stadium. If it wasn’t Hall’s play that gave that away, it was his only presence on the field four drives into the game, when most of the starting defense sat. His play didn’t help matters though.
Hall was visible in all the wrong ways. He committed a penalty, got hit multiple times and missed a tackle, all in the span of a few drives. There wasn’t much to take from this game – even by preseason standards, it was a snooze. But this put an end to any notion that there was serious competition between Sauce Gardner and Hall.
On the first drive of the game, Kyle Pitts badly hit Hall on a corner route, going 52 yards down the sideline to set up the Falcons for a final field goal. At least that was against Pitts — the best player in an Atlanta offense that leaves a lot to be desired.
Hall later said he tried to get the jump on a potential interception and was caught out.
“It’s just a vision,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “It’s such a simple solution. … That right there, just trust your vision, trust your size, what’s going to be a bang-bang play.”
“There are times and places when you can do that,” Hall said. “And I’m glad it happened on this stage. I’m learning and I feel like I’ll be a lot better from those.”
One drive later, Hall was complicit in two plays, failing to tackle KhaDarel Hodge on a short loop that eventually went for 13 yards as well as giving up a touchdown on a slant to Olamide Zaccheaus — a play on which Hall misstepped outside. out of line and never recovered.
After that, Gardner — who had a quiet night, making one tackle — didn’t play the rest of the way. Hall still had another blackout to go, committing a hold midway through the second quarter on a play where he still gave up a 12-yard catch to Damiere Byrd.
It always would have been surprising to see anyone other than Gardner, on whom the Jets spent the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, lining up at cornerback in Week 1 against the Ravens. Now, it would be completely shocking. Saleh said an official decision could come soon, with the target being a dress rehearsal against the Giants in the third pre-season game.
“He’s going to be fine,” Saleh said of Hall. “He had a really good camp. Know that this one probably stings a little and he knows it’s not good enough. But at the same time, he’s had a good camp, so you just don’t want this day to define what he’s able to accomplish.”
Whether Saleh declares the competition over or not, there is little to decide at this point. DJ Reed, who did not play Monday, is a lock on the depth chart at corner barring an injury. And Gardner now looks like a clear starter next to him.
After Monday went as badly as it did for Hall, the more important question might be whether he can keep the No. 3 job on the depth chart, which Brandin Echols and Isaiah Dunn could challenge for.
Hall started all 17 games for the Jets last season and acquitted himself quite well. But the writing was on the wall four months ago. Monday only provided visual confirmation.
“I think it’s all a learning lesson,” Hall said. “I think every chance you get to go there, you see the film, you analyze it. It won’t be the first time something has gone wrong. So my mindset is I’m not going to let it change anything.”