It's fully justifiable to be concerned about the Chicago Bears cornerback position this season.
Kyle Fuller and Tracy Porter were inconsistent last year, Bryce Callahan doesn't appear to be a long-term option in the slot and Sherrick McManis should only be playing special teams.
As a result, GM Ryan Pace used a fourth-round pick in this year's draft on former Northern Iowa defensive back Deiondre Hall.
Hall is a versatile defender who played safety, rover and cornerback for NIU. He switched between safety and corner last season and was named the Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year after posting 82 tackles, 5.5 for loss, 3 forced fumbles and a conference-leading 6 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
For the Bears, Hall will play the boundary corner position, where he can make full use of his height (6-2) and long arms (34 3/8).
But what exactly do the Bears have in this small-school prospect? To answer that question, I broke down film from three of Hall's collegiate contests. Here's what I found.
vs. Portland State
-0:00, lined up safety, Hall comes up in run support unblocked, breaks down and keeps feet moving, swallows up RB for no gain. Good open-field technique.
-0:46, lined up at FS, Hall bites hard on play fake, leaves deep middle wide open.
-1:48, QB keeper around edge, Hall comes up in support but he’s out of control, doesn’t break down well and dips head, gets a piece of QB, which was just good enough.
-2:56, run up the middle, WR drops shoulder and hits Hall in stomach, Hall tries to jump around contact but is driven to the ground. He needs to fight through this block to be effective. Took easy way out and paid for it.
-3:05, run up the middle, RB clears to 2nd level, Hall is again out of control and is beat easily by one simple cut.
-5:53, man coverage on slot receiver, WR runs an out-and-in, Hall not in a position to make a play as the pass is caught.
-6:15, QB scramble, Hall closes in a hurry and puts a lick on the ball carrier. Big hit.
-7:05, QB scrambles for about 15 seconds, Hall stays with his man and is able to break up the pass attempt using his long arms to go around and in front of the receiver.
vs. North Dakota State
-1:09, lined up in press CB, play run to his edge, Hall has a chance to make the tackle but dives at RB’s feet. Hall needs to stay on his feet and wrap up. This was ugly.
-2:13, play run to his edge, Hall bursts past the blocker and closes on the RB, makes the tackle. Strong play in run support here.
-4:10, lined up in press man, Hall tosses aside the WR with authority and closes on the RB, forces fumble. Very aggressive snap.
-4:21, press man, Hall bites on the pump fake, commits pass interference penalty after he’s forced to grab the receiver, who otherwise would’ve been wide open for the TD.
-5:03, zone coverage, Hall in deep third, WR runs out route but Hall keeps backpedaling, easy completion in front of him. Needs better awareness in zone.
-8:50, Hall lined up out wide, breaks off his man to the slot receiver once pass is thrown, nearly gets his hand on the pass but he’s a second too late. ND State TD.
vs. Illinois State
-0:51, gunner on punt team, Hall fights past block all the way down the field, breaks loose and makes tackle on PR.
-1:54, press man vs. WR Cameron Meredith, fly pattern, jam at line does very little to impede receiver’s progress, Hall never turns to look for the ball, pass complete along the sideline.
-2:44, press man, Hall gets a good jam on the receiver, long arms a plus here.
-3:02, off coverage, Meredith runs a 12-yard hitch, Hall late to break forward, easy completion.
-5:12, zone coverage, Hall floats in his zone as two receivers run through, as WR breaks inside Hall stays flat-footed and does not break on the pass, easy completion.
-6:02, press man, at the snap Hall sinks his hips with good balance, he thrusts a hand into the receiver’s chest, he then opens his hips and turns and runs, stays in WR’s hip pocket. Very good press technique here.
-7:21, press coverage, Hall waits for the receiver to stem three yards before getting both hands into his chest. Receiver is thrown off his route and pass falls harmlessly incomplete.
As a cornerback, Hall has a lot of experience in press coverage. When he uses his long arms to reroute receivers, he can be very effective in disrupting patterns. He also has fluid hips, which allows him to quickly turn and run on downfield routes.
Under the tutelage of Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donnatell, Hall has the potential to be a very good cover corner, whose size and length will allow him to defend on an island.
Hall's long arms come into play when he sits at the boundary. He uses them to chuck receivers at the line of scrimmage but also to make plays on the ball the air. In jump-ball situations, his combination of height and arm length make him a dangerous defensive weapon.
Hall is a willing defender against the run but doesn't have great vision once bodies start stacking up. He was much better against the run when playing safety and had the entire field in front of him. At safety, he showed much more aggressiveness and a downhill mindset when defending opposing rushing attacks. There were also a number of snaps in which he was very physical fighting off blocks, although he did run around a few in-the-box blocks.
In coverage, Hall lacks ideal awareness. Due to his frame, he can make quarterbacks pay on poorly thrown balls, but Hall doesn't anticipate well in zone coverage and is inconsistent when attempting to find the ball in man sets. The speed of the NFL game, in comparison to the MVC, is a hurdle Hall might take a while to clear.
Hall should have immediate value on special teams, as he's experienced as a gunner on punt team and kickoffs.
Overall, Hall brings needed size, speed and versatility to Chicago's defense. He's still a raw project but all of the physical tools are there. He's been compared favorably to Charles Tillman but he's not there yet. Fortunately for Bears fans, Hall has the potential to develop into a lock-down corner at the next level, it's just going to take a year or two.