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New Eagles DB Deiondre’ Hall has a path to success

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But he needs to stay out of his own way...

The news that the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles were making a trade after the roster cut deadline was a surprise to literally no one. Howie Roseman wheels and deals, it’s what he does, and this aggressive style has led to building an incredibly strong roster. On Saturday, Roseman attempted to make the roster even stronger by trading for Chicago Bears’ safety/cornerback Deiondre’ Hall.

The troubled defensive back has a bit of a past, one that led to the Bears throwing their arms up and letting him go for a conditional seventh-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. The Eagles are taking a swing at a player that, to this point, hasn’t been able to stay out of trouble and enters the season serving a one game suspension. We’ve been down this road before with another defensive back with a very similar physical profile. It didn’t work out.

Let’s be clear: it doesn’t always work out, but that doesn’t mean these reclamation projects can’t be a fruitful endeavor with a decent return on investment. The culture, or emotional intelligence, whatever you want to call it, in the Eagles building is strong and capable of taking on a few challenging personalities without collapsing upon itself.

I don’t know if the Eagles can help Hall get his head straight, but that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to evaluate Hall as a player.

STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD...

Hall, the player, was selected late in the fourth-round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Getting noticed in a sea of FCS players isn’t easy, but a few things stood out about him that got scouts interested.

First, his versatility. Hall played from a few different alignments at Northern Iowa, bouncing from cornerback to rover to safety and then ultimately playing both corner and safety in his last year in college. The ability to understand the defense and continue to make an impact outside, deep, and in the box is a valuable one.

Second, he’s a ballhawk. Hall intercepted 11 passes in his last two years with the Panthers and brought back a school record 4 interceptions to the house for touchdowns. His “my ball” mentality made him the most dangerous defensive back to throw at in 2015, with his 6 interceptions leading the FCS.

Like the saying goes, most defensive backs are former wide receivers that can’t catch. That’s not necessarily the case with Hall, who nabbed at least a couple of his interceptions with a cast on one hand. As a senior wide receiver at Blue Springs high school, he hauled in 35 catches for 719 yard and 9 touchdowns. Dude has hands.

One factor with ball skills that are often completely forgotten or summarily glossed over is how a defender plays the ball when it’s not in the air. Adding to his big time interception total of 2015, Hall added 3 forced fumbles to his turnover tally.

Third, you get bonus points for causing a visceral reaction from the scouts and front office personnel at the Senior Bowl.

“But none of those players elicited the response Hall did from the huddled masses of scouts, coaches, GMs and journalists as weigh-in results were announced at the Mobile Convention Center. It wasn’t Hall’s height or weight (192) that had folks buzzing. Rather, it was his arm length (34 3/4”) and wingspan (a staggering 82 3/8”).” - Chris Burke, Senior Bowl Day 1

His arm length would measure in slightly shorter at the NFL Combine, coming in at 34 3/8”, but it still led all defensive backs in Indianapolis. You can see the appeal; a small-school kid with no Division I offers makes good and oh by the way he’s half-man, half-octopus.

EVALUATING THE PRO...

There’s not much to work with from a film standpoint with Hall. He saw his rookie campaign cut in half by a high ankle sprain and spent most of his sophomore season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Even with 8 games played as a rookie, he only received significant snaps (28) in Week 2, conveniently enough, against the Eagles.

There are two snaps from this game that point to why Hall eventually converted to safety.

Hall’s limited cornerback tape in the NFL shows some major issues in tight coverage against quicker wide receivers. Patience and foot quickness are lacking, compounded by tight hips that limit the fluidity in his turns. This causes him to lose early at the line when he can’t get hands on and he lacks the recovery speed to mitigate the damage. All that arm length achieves nothing if you’re out of the play early.

Excuse the angle; the Bears all-22 angle is the worst view in all professional sports.

In the red zone, on 3rd and 7, this was Hall’s best rep of the game. Trey Burton, detached from the line, does all he can to eliminate the contact to his right side. It doesn’t work, as Hall uses his length and strength to stick with Burton and finishes with excellent timing and location for the pass break up. As previously mentioned, Hall excels with the ball in the air if it’s in his sphere of influence, and it’s not just via interceptions.

The takeaway here is that tight ends will give Hall significantly less problems at the release point and throughout the stem than more athletic wide receivers like Nelson Agholor.

This is from the 2018 Hall of Fame game against the Baltimore Ravens’ first-round rookie tight end Hayden Hurst. When afforded the space to play off and read through the receiver to the quarterback, Hall flashes the ability to quickly close down throwing windows. Again, the location and timing of his hands are impressive, and he’s able to avoid drawing a flag as he works underneath Hurst for the breakup.

The most consistent part of Hall’s game is his tackling, not only in run support but in the open field. This is an upgrade over the other options available to the Eagles beyond their starters. When drafted, Daniel Jeremiah called Hall “one of the best tacklers in the secondary in this draft... he’s consistent getting guys on the ground.”

This flashed all over his 2018 Week 3 preseason performance against the Kansas City Chiefs. Hall was able to corral Travis Kelce on a number of occasions while also coming from the opposite side of the field to track down speedster Tyreek Hill on a solid angle.

The run angles Hall takes to the ball are decisive and sound, showing improvement from his rookie season where he had some faulty tracks. Overall, he’s a fearless, secure tackler in the box and out in space, something the Eagles defensive backs have struggled with recently. He can get stuck on blocks from pulling lineman, like any player his size will, but otherwise he does well to generate power with his length by locking his elbows when taking on wide receivers and tight ends. Hall can definitely be trusted to be a plus in run support.

There are still some pre-snap processing issues that need to be cleaned up from his rookie tape, and it’s not clear from his current film if those have been resolved. Still, post-snap, he looks more comfortable diagnosing from further back at safety and also does well to locate potential targets on scramble drills. As he gets more comfortable with the position, you can see a path to success for Hall as a third/fourth safety and special teams contributor.

The final factor that concerned me with Hall dovetails nicely with why he was traded in the first place. In the five games I studied, he was charged with two personal fouls.

The other personal foul came after the play as he jawed with Agholor. It’s also of note that at the Senior Bowl he had to be separated from former Houston Texans’ wide receiver Braxton Miller. These things are bound to happen and I love my defensive backs to chirp and have swag, but there has to be a point where the play on the field speaks for itself.

Looking at both his on-field and off-field mental errors, these are all minor incidents that potentially mean nothing in the long run, but if it continues in similar or increasing frequency and intensity it will derail what could be a solid NFL career. For Hall, you hope being traded was the light-bulb moment he needed.

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