Falcons cornerback Darren Hall has ‘flashed’ in training camp

Looking to earn a spot in the revamped secondary
Falcons defensive back Darren Hall (23) stretches with teammates during minicamp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Falcons defensive back Darren Hall (23) stretches with teammates during minicamp at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Atlanta. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Cornerback Darren Hall, who’s in a battle to retain his roster spot, is off to a strong start in training camp.

“He had a really good camp last year,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “Like a lot of young guys, he’s had some good games. He’s got to compete, and I thought the last couple of days, he’s flashed.”

Hall, was drafted in the fourth round (108th overall) out of San Diego State in the 2021 NFL draft.

He played in 14 games and started one as a rookie. He played in 17 games and made nine starts in 2022 when he took over at right cornerback after Casey Hayward went down with a torn pectoral muscle in the sixth game of the season.

In Game 15, Hall was benched against Baltimore after wide receiver Sammy Watkins got loose for a 40-yard reception.

Over the offseason, the Falcons revamped their secondary staff and added Jeff Okudah in a trade, signed veterans Mike Hughes and Tre Flowers in free agency and drafted Clark Phillips III in the draft.

Flowers replaced Okudah in the lineup after he went down with a right ankle injury Friday.

The Falcons also re-signed Cornell Armstrong, the player who replaced Hall and finished the season as the starter at right cornerback.

If Hall was bitter, he’s clearly over the benching.

“I’m just doing everything I can to help the team win,” Hall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution after practice Tuesday. “I don’t make the decisions like that, you know, so whatever the team has me do, I’m going to go out there and do it with flying colors. Put a smile on my face and help the team be ready to compete.”

Hall had 45 tackles, three pass breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and one tackle for loss over 634 defensive snaps (57% of the total snaps).

“So, it felt good going out there and playing,” Hall said. “It’s a, for sure, good feeling to have, a good high to have. It’s something I want to continue to have. I’m going out there and doing everything I can to get better every single day.”

One of the good things for Hall is that Smith has given players opportunities to bounce back from mistakes. Smith likes players who have persevered through some tough times.

So, Hall is trying to carry on and reestablish himself in the NFL as an outside cornerback.

“That’s the mindset we (must) have when you are playing defensive back,” Hall said. “I feel like if you’re a defensive back, you either can harp on a bad play or you could just go on to the next play. So, that’s how I am every day in life.”

Hall has been getting his hands on the football and playing tight coverage in the one-on-one drills. He’s hoping to impress secondary coach Steve Jackson and assistant head coach/defense Jerry Gray.

“I’m just getting better every single day focusing on what I think I need to focus on to get better as a player, as a teammate, and as a student of the game,” Hall said.

Teams completed 70.3% of their passes (26 of 37) when targeting Hall, according to Pro Football Reference’s advance stats. He have up 317 yards, 105 after the catch. Team had a passer rating of 114.4 when throwing his way, compared with 80.7 when thrown at Hayward in his six games of action.

Hall, 23, is looking at the changes in coaching staff as a fresh start.

“New (defensive back) coach,” Hall said. “A new defensive coordinator and a new defense. I think it’s been a fresh start. It’s going well. Creating a good relationships, and also it’s different from last year for sure. It’s a different room, it’s a different feel, but it feels good.”

Hall, who’s 6-foot and 190 pounds, was asked how it was different.

“It’s just different coaching styles and stuff,” Hall said. “They’re different from the (defensive coordinator Dean Pees) and the (defensive) back coach (Jon Hoke) we had last year. They’re just a little different you know, nothing negative, nothing like that, it’s just a different room you know?”

Hall was aware that Jackson and Gray played together in the NFL.

“And (Gray) coached (Jackson), if I’m not mistaken,” Hall said. “They have a lot of knowledge of the game. Very energetic guys. You can tell they’re very passionate about what we do and what they do as coaches.

“Being former All-Pro cornerbacks and being defensive backs that played very well in this league, you could tell that all the knowledge that they have when they’re speaking to us in the meeting room. It’s very helpful for us.”

Hall is not worried about earing a spot of the final 53-man roster at this point.

“I can’t worry about that,” Hall said. “I have to worry about myself and getting better every single day, in every single way. My focus is going out here and competing.”

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