Losing Leon Hall for the Season Hurts the Bengals, but Not as Badly as It Seems
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Hall, Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) fifth-ranked cornerback in the league through seven games, suffered an Achilles tendon tear in the past on his left foot. There's no question he should be able to return next year and play at a high level, but what do the Bengals do for the rest of the year?
Luckily for the Bengals, not only do they have enough depth at defensive back to effectively replace Hall, they also have enough talent both offensively and defensively to more than make up for the loss of one of their best players.
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Working on the right side of the field and in the slot, Hall has allowed only 18 of the 36 passes thrown in his direction to be caught for 153 yards, 57 yards after the catch, one touchdown, one interception and two passes defensed.
With Hall done for the year, Adam Jones will take over his job as right cornerback, while the recently signed Chris Crocker and second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick will take on Hall's slot duties.
None have been as productive as Hall, but none have been major liabilities.
Jones has given up 25 receptions on 39 targets for 436 yards and 227 yards after the catch, but has allowed only one touchdown and also has an interception to go with a pass breakup this year.
Kirkpatrick, who has played just 24 snaps so far, has given up three catches on four targets for 43 yards, 15 yards after the catch and a touchdown.
Crocker has allowed three catches on six targets for 23 yards and 11 yards after the catch.
At least the Bengals have a good supporting cast around them. Newman, the left cornerback, has given up only one touchdown this year and has an interception and pass breakup.
Safeties Reggie Nelson, Taylor Mays and George Iloka have allowed an average of just 49 percent of the passes thrown their way to be caught and have two touchdowns allowed, one interception and five passes defensed between them.
And, of course, there is the Bengals' front seven, the talent level of which can help out any secondary.
Presently, the Bengals defense has a total of 18 sacks, four of which (along with six quarterback hits and 18 hurries) belong to defensive tackle Geno Atkins. He yet again ranks in the top five at his position.
Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Wallace Gilberry have a combined 8.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is again Cincinnati's leading tackler, with 74 combined, and rotational defensive tackle Domata Peko has 2.5 sacks in just 276 snaps played.
Hall contributed to this success, to be certain, but so did the other 10 men on the field for Cincinnati's defense.
How much of an impact will Leon Hall's injury have on the Bengals defense?
Few teams are as well-equipped to have their entire defense compensate for the loss of someone as crucial as Hall. Indeed, the Bengals' depth and talent level are what make them such a standout team in the first place.
In the NFL, injuries happen, and the Bengals are in a better position than most teams to make the loss of Hall as low-impact as possible.
Cincinnati's offense also can help make up for Hall's absence by extending drives and their lead. According to Team Rankings, the Bengals are presently 10th in average time of possession, at 30:59, ninth in third-down conversion percentage at 40.62 percent (up dramatically from 32.74 percent last year) and 16th in plays per game at 65.9.
The Bengals offense also ranks fourth in the league in red-zone scoring percentage, getting a touchdown 66.67 percent of the time.
Teams with weaker defenses or less efficient offenses would be sent reeling by a player of Hall's caliber suffering a season-ending injury. Though it is a major blow for the Bengals—Hall was, after all, their top-performing member of the secondary—they have more than enough talent and depth to lessen the impact.
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