Rookie cornerbacks are a lot like third-graders with glasses; unfortunately, they are going to get picked on.
Deiondre Hall is well aware of this fact. The Bears' fourth-round pick from Northern Iowa is prepared to be targeted time and time again in his rookie year until he proves to opposing quarterbacks that he's going to shut down any pass going his way. With long arms and strong instincts as a defender, Hall has the tools to be a lockdown corner that won't be attacked by the other team. However until he showcases those skills, he knows he's going to see the ball headed his way a lot.
On Saturday, in Chicago's third preseason game – a 23-7 loss at Soldier Field to the Kansas City Chiefs – Hall was forced to take the good with the bad when it comes to the rookie targeting. He recorded an interception on a tipped ball, broke up a pass and registered a tackle. He was also the defender in coverage on the longest play of the game, allowing a 58-yard pass.
Hall knows he has to improve with more important passes headed his direction moving forward.
"I keep stressing each week to keep growing, keep getting better each game and that's what I have to do," Hall said following the game. "A lot of growth is with the patience. I've stressed that a lot the past few weeks and in camp and whatnot, so now I'm just trying to get better in the off-man. And a few of those plays I gave up were in off-man, so I just need to continue to get better."
Multiple Chiefs quarterbacks threw at Hall, with varying results. On Kansas City's first drive of the third quarter, the defender was matched up with rookie receiver Tyreek Hill. The two players were step-for-step for nearly 50 yards when the ball from quarterback Nick Foles was unleashed. The pass didn't have enough distance, forcing both players to turn around. Hall deflected the pass, but it landed right in Hill's arms for the long gain. Five plays later, the Chiefs marched in for a touchdown.
Though he hadn't had a chance to break down the film yet, Hall knew what error he made on the play. He failed to stay deep, allowing the speedy Hill to get just a step behind him. Even when the pass was underthrown, the cornerback still had to adjust because he was out of position, while the receiver could just wait for the ball to come right to him.
"I just have to stay deep," Hall said. "Do my job, you know, especially when you are going against faster guys like that at wide receiver. That gives you the more sense of urgency to stay deeper and that's really what happened on that play."
A drive later, Hall was again behind his man. However that time, it ended up paying off. Aaron Murray replaced Foles, and on a second-and-11, he threw an eight-yard comeback route to receiver Demarcus Robinson, with Hall trailing in coverage. The ball sailed high, allowing a leaping Robinson to only get his fingertips on the pass. Hall was in perfect position, grabbing the deflection for the interception.
The interception was not the example of perfect technique, but showed Hall's ability to make game-changing plays from his position. "A pick is a pick," the rookie said. "I was just a little bit behind the receiver, but it all ended up working out in the end."
Hall didn't play much in the first half of Saturday's game against Kansas City's first-string offense. However when the regular season kicks off on September 11 in Houston, the rookie may play a larger role. Two of the team's top cornerbacks – Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan – didn't play versus the Chiefs because of injuries. Then in the third quarter, another player at the position – veteran Tracy Porter – left the game after taking a knee to the head; he is now in the NFL's concussion protocol. With players down in front of him, the rookie may have to grow up quick to avoid being picked on.
His teammates know he has the talent and mindset to thrive in the role. Now it's up to Hall to show opponents he is not one to be messed with.
"To get burned deep and then come back with an interception, that's the life of a DB. It's the one position where you need to have a short-term memory," safety Chris Prosinski said of Hall. "Chances are if you get beat, they are going to come right back to it, the other team isn't going to feel sorry for you. But if anybody has that, Deiondre is capable of it, from what I've seen throughout camp. It's going to happen, but I'm sure he'll learn from it."