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Bengals Leon Hall's Place Among Top NFL Cornerbacks

We tend to get political here at the Jungle during the offseason -- and by that I mean that we like to have relatively pointless debates that end up going nowhere. Case-in-point: Last year, we held a lively debate when one of our readers named The Dealio posed the question as to whether or not Leon Hall was a top 5 corner in the league. The Dealio made a compelling case as to why we should consider him among the elite NFL CBs. Hall ranked in the top 5 in pass deflections, interceptions and tackles in 2009. He also was graded by Pro Football focus in '09 as the best cornerback in the league.

Last year? Not so much.

Hall got off to a blazing start in 2010. In the first six games of the season, Hall recorded 4 INTs, 7 pass deflections and 21 tackles. His interceptions weren't just lucky in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time picks either. Like this leaping interception that he got off of Matt Ryan against the Falcons last year. Certainly, he looked as if he belonged in the ranks of the NFL's leading cornerbacks.

However, after the Falcon's game, Hall's play started to tail off. He failed to record any more interceptions on the season an only came up with four passes defensed over the next ten games. On top of that, Hall's tackles dramatically decreased. In the first six games of the year, Hall had four or more tackles in three games. Over the next ten games, Hall only recorded more than four tackles in a game once, which came against the Steelers (a game where he also recorded two forced fumbles). All this leaves us with a lot of head scratching as we ask the question: "What happened to Leon Hall?"

INTs PDef Tckls
2010 4 11 44
2009 6 24 71
2008 3 24 75


Those at least are the raw numbers, which would be pretty easy to explain away without anything else to go on. Fortunately for us, Pro Football Focus Agrees: Leon Hall slumped in 2011.

In 2009, PFF ranked Hall as the #1 cornerback in the league. What about 2010? PFF downgraded his ranking to 20th overall. Here's why:

  • In 2009, Hall was targeted 101 times, only allowing 51 catches for a 50% completion percentage. In 2010 he was targeted less, only 74 times, but allowed 44 catches for 59% completion percentage.
  • In 2009, Hall allowed only three TDs compared to 6 INTs. In 2010, he allowed 5 touchdowns and grabbed 4 INTs.
  • In 2009 Hall gave up 565 yards on 11.1 ypc. In 2010 Hall gave up 579 yards on 13.2 ypc.
  • In 2009 opposing QBs had a 52.6 passer rating when throwing against Hall. In 2010, that number jumped to 84.2.
  • In 2009 Hall ranked 14th amongst all NFL CBs against the run. In 2010, that number dropped to 24th.

In some ways, we can explain the drop in production by the the types of quarterbacks that Leon faced last year. Consider that Hall went up against Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Joe Flacco (twice), and Ben Roethlisberger (twice). His numbers were bound to decrease (as were the entire team's numbers).

Still, great players play their best against the toughest competition and Hall failed by that measuring stick. Does that mean that Hall isn't one of the best CBs in the leauge? No. Personally, I'd still rank him in the top 10 or 15 CBs in the NFL. What it does mean however, is that Hall might be a player that works best with another CB on the opposite side of him instead of being a one man island like Darrelle Revis is.

So please Mike Brown. Sign Jonathan Joseph. Leon Hall will thank you later.