Bryce Hall was one of the Jets' ironmen on defense last season. He played in all 17 games and led the team in the number of defensive snaps taken (1,169), playing more than 98% of the snaps during the 2021 NFL season.
The University of Virginia product came a long way -- at one time his very ability to continue playing football came into question after he sustained a serious, season-ending ankle injury six games into his senior season. From at one time being considered among the top cornerbacks in the country, Hall fell to the Jets in the fifth round (picked No. 158 overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. To the Green & White, it was a gamble well worth taking.
He battled back in his rookie season to finally take the field in Week 9 against the Patriots. Hall snagged the first interception of his NFL career in Week 15 at the Rams and played in eight games and made seven starts.
Last season, Hall was part of an evolving cornerbacks room that was young and included rookies Michael Carter II, Brandin Echols, Isaiah Dunn and Jason Pinnock (who has since been switched to safety). In many ways, Hall emerged as the leader of the group.
But to say things have changed in the cornerback room would be a soaring understatement.
First came the signing in free agency of D.J. Reed from Seattle. That was followed by the drafting of Ahmad "Sauce" Gardner with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. And while some observers have already anointed Gardner the starter, head coach Robert Saleh has encouraged competition, especially in only the second week of training camp.
For Hall, 24, the competition is part -- a big part -- of the job.
"Yeah, there's Sauce, but with Sauce and I think in the whole DB room we have a really deep group," Hall said after practice on Tuesday. "We're making everybody better by doing a good job pushing everyone else. Between us [Hall and Gardner], there's nothing but love. We're pushing each other, and it's the same with D.J. He's a good dude, too.
"At end of the day I can only control what I can control. I can't worry about or analyze what happens. I can only be the best version of me ... stay diligent, be where I want to be and push others to be the best as well."
Hall's gentle demeanor and his recognition that depth at cornerback, really at any position on the football field, is often the key to a successful season for most teams. His approach and dedication have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by Saleh.
"With Bryce, I expect the same thing he brought last year," Saleh said. "He's relentless, working better in coverage. He's a pro's pro. I love having him around. Just his presence and competitive nature is a bonus for anyone really."
And for now, at least, Hall and Gardner have been splitting reps in camp and Saleh has been complimentary to both.
"I think it's one of those things where you'll know when you know," Saleh said late last week, referring to who will be the eventual starter. "Him [Gardner] and Bryce are alternating days in terms of getting the reps and going against different receivers and getting those opportunities. Both are doing a really nice job competing and helping one another out. He's [Gardner] doing a good job. We'll know when we know."
Hall is confident in his ability and in his knowledge of the system installed by defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. In that sense, he has an early advantage as one of the Jets' "young veterans."
"I feel like everything happens for a reason," Hall said. "My faith is a big part of why I'm at peace. If I continue to get better, everything will work out the way it's supposed to. Honestly, I don't worry. All that stuff takes away from my game and what I'm trying to do in the present. At the end of day, I'm my biggest competitor. It has nothing to do with anyone else but me, it's what's gotten me to where I am now."
See the Green & White on the field in full pads during week two at training camp.