Bryce Hall is entering his second NFL season, and he suddenly is an elder statesman among a mostly green cornerbacks group with the Jets.
The team’s fifth-round pick in 2020 out of Virginia is expected to open the season as a starter, although first-year coach Robert Saleh has yet to disclose who will be lining up on the opposite side or in the slot in Sunday’s season opener in Carolina.
“You can’t predict what happens in this league. It’s like you grow up quick,” said Hall, who started seven of the final eight games last season after returning from a collegiate ankle injury. “Obviously, last year I got thrown into the fire and I was playing already.
“There’s no excuse, no explanation, you just have to come in here and work. I think it’s good because it’s challenging me to step up into a leadership role and to grow faster. That’s what I need and that’s what I want.”
Third-year corner Bless Austin, who started 16 games over the past two seasons, was released last week, leaving six first-year or second-year corners vying for playing time. Among them are four rookies: sixth-round pick Brandin Echols, undrafted Isaiah Dunn and fifth-rounders Jason Pinnock and Michael Carter II.
“I was surprised that they cut [Austin]. He was working with the ones, so I didn’t have any knowledge of what was going on,” Hall said. “But that’s the nature of the business and you just have to keep going. You have to take it day by day and appreciate every opportunity that you get here. And the ball keeps rolling.”
Second-year corner Javelin Guidry appears to be the favorite to start in the slot, while free-agent signing Justin Hardee also made the initial 53-man roster.
“Obviously we’re very young, but I have complete confidence in this group. I love this group. I’m excited for what our potential is and the pieces we have,” the 23-year-old Hall said. “Even though we’re young, we’re very hungry, I don’t think we try to listen too much attention to the outside noise. It’s us stepping on the field, not them.
“We have a bunch of hungry dudes, we’ve got the right people and we know we can get it done and be successful.”
Asked about his secondary plans for Sunday’s game against Sam Darnold and the Panthers, Saleh replied: “We’re rotating the guys during practice. I thought they did a really nice job over the last couple of days, giving them a chance to compete … Do I have a feeling? I do, I’m not going to lie to you all, but we’ll wait until Sunday.”