Leon Hall hasn't made a Pro Bowl, and he hasn't made a Top 100 List. He's not exactly a showman. He's a "technician" who performs at a consistently high level every year.
Zimmer started moving Hall around last year, and Hall would move to cover the slot receiver every time Adam Jones came on the field as the third cornerback. Not many corners have the quickness and fundamental ability do this. Covering guys like Victor Cruz, Randall Cobb, Wes Welker, and Danny Amendola is very difficult due to their agility and precision in route running.
Fortunately for the Bengals, Leon Hall is the best in the league in all the important slot cornerback metrics on Pro Football Focus.
|SLOT PERFORMANCE||Team||Slot Snaps||Targets||Receptions||Cover Snaps / Target||Yards / Cover Snap||Cover Snaps / Reception|
|Chris Harris Jr.||DEN||325||51||29||6.4||0.83||11.2|
This table shows that Hall didn't just cover the slot, he dominated it. In Coverage Snaps Per Target (essentially saying that good coverage means the quarterback won't throw his way), 9.6 snaps/target is best in the league by far. Same for Yards Per Coverage Snap and Coverage Snaps Per Reception. And he's not just edging out victories in these categories, he's blowing the competition out of the water.
Perhaps if all of Hall's interceptions didn't come at the end of the year, he would have gotten some sort of recognition for his play last year. His interception in the Week 15 Eagles game completely changed the momentum of the game - at the time the Bengals were down 10-13 late in the 3rd quarter, but the final score was 34-13 Bengals. His pick six in the Week 16 Steelers game was the only Bengals touchdown scored in the game, where the Bengals won 13-10. His pick six in the Wildcard Playoff Game was also the only Bengals touchdown of the game, giving the Bengals their only lead of the game, at the time 7-6.
Pro Football Focus recently released their Top Ten Cornerbacks of the last five years, and Leon Hall found himself nicely at number six, behind Darrelle Revis, Brandon Flowers, Champ Bailey, and Antoine Winfield.
Playing in Cincinnati doesn’t always get you the attention you deserve, but it hasn’t affected our attention when it comes to Leon Hall.
His best year was undoubtedly in 2009 when he would finish third in our coverage rankings, and while he’s never come close to repeating that, he has always graded positively and proven himself a reliable top corner for the Bengals, one capable of playing inside and out. You wonder if not for some nagging injuries just how much higher he could be, but at just 28 time is still on his side.
Hall's ranking was better than Tramon Williams, Joe Haden, Asante Samuel, and Charles Tillman. Richard Sherman's two seasons wasn't enough to qualify for this list, while former rookies like Casey Hayward and Stephon Gilmore are likely to join in a couple years too.
Hall's torn achilles in 2011 has been the only major setback in his career. After showing a little rust early in 2012, Hall came back to form and finished the season strong. After another year of rebuilding and refining technique under Mike Zimmer, he should be even better.