Bryce Hall has played eight NFL games . . . and he’s the most experienced cornerback on the Jets' roster.
NFL coaches and offensive coordinators know this and will try to exploit the Jets’ vastly inexperienced secondary every chance they get. Hall, the leader of this extremely young group, is confident the Jets’ corners will surprise people.
"All that we have right now is all we need," Hall said during a Zoom call Monday. "I have the utmost confidence in all the guys. Even though we’re young, I think we’re very hungry. We’re not trying to listen to the outside noise because at the end of the day it’s us stepping on the field, not them. That’s just our mentality.
"We got a bunch of hungry dudes. We got the right people, and we know we can get it done and be successful this year."
The Jets’ cornerback group was their biggest question mark heading into camp. It became an even bigger one last week when third-year corner Bless Austin was released.
Austin was expected to start this Sunday when the Jets open the regular season against Carolina. Hall "was surprised" that Austin was cut. It leaves the 24-year-old Hall and a group of rookies and second-year players to try and shut down opposing receivers.
Sixth-round pick Brandin Echols and undrafted rookie free agent Isaiah Dunn are the leading candidates to start opposite Hall. But Jets coach Robert Saleh has said that rookie Jason Pinnock, a fifth-round pick, and undrafted second-year pro Javelin, are also in the mix.
Rookie Michael Carter II could start at nickel corner. The Jets also have fifth-year pro Justin Hardee but he’s a special team ace.
Saleh has yet to reveal who he will start on the outside.
"Do I have a feeling?" Saleh said. "I do. I’m not going to lie to you all, but we’ll wait until Sunday."
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule probably isn’t staying up at night waiting for this answer.
Containing the Panthers’ receivers D.J. Moore, ex-Jet Robby Anderson and Terrace Marshall Jr. will be a huge challenge for this young corps. Former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold could have a big day in his first game against his old team.
But being thrown right into the fire may not be a bad thing if the players respond and rise to the challenge. Hall did it last year after he returned from a gruesome leg injury he suffered while playing at the University of Virginia.
Hall, a fifth-round pick last year, appeared in the last eight games, starting the final seven. He played at least 99% of the defensive snaps in all seven starts. Now he’s the leader of this group.
"You grow up quick in this league," Hall said. "There’s no excuse, no explanation, you just got to come in here and work. I think it’s good because it’s challenging me to step up into a leadership role to grow faster. That’s what I need and that’s what I want."
Hall probably would not have lasted until the fifth round if not for the devastating injury he suffered in punt-return coverage against Miami in October of 2019.
As a junior, Hall was one of the best corners in the country. He led the nation with 22 pass breakups and his 24 passes defended were tied for first.
After going through a full offseason program and training camp for the first time in the NFL, Hall believes he’s ready to take a big step in Year 2.
"I’ve grown a lot as far as understanding the scheme and what the coaches are asking of us," Hall said. "I’m learning it so now I feel like I can play a lot faster. It’s pretty simple. I’m not thinking too much so I can really hone in on my technique.
"I’m pleased with where I’m at right now, but I got big goals, big dreams, big aspirations. I know every day you have to come in here and work. With that one mentality, I’ll get to where I want to go."