Advertisement

 CINCINNATI (AP) -Leon Hall was exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals wanted - a cornerback with a lot of speed and a lack of baggage.
For the second year in a row, the Bengals took a cornerback in the first round of the draft on Saturday. They coveted Hall, who developed into one of the nation's best at Michigan while staying out of trouble.
``Everything is positive about this kid,'' defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan said. ``This young individual is perfect for us right now.''
After adding a Michigan player in the first round, they got ready to replace another with their second-round pick. They chose Auburn running back Kenny Irons, who could take over for often-injured Wolverine Chris Perry.
No team had to pay as much attention to character as the Bengals, who couldn't afford to bring in another player with problems. They had nine players arrested in a nine-month span, six of them draft picks from the last two years.
The 22-year-old cornerback has a clean past, something that Bengals coaches proudly and repeatedly pointed out after they took him with the 18th overall pick.
``He's an outstanding, strong-character, serious guy who wants to be great,'' defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle said.
Besides staying out of trouble, Hall is expected to significantly improve a defense that has dragged down the Bengals. They had one of the NFL's worst defenses last season, a recurring problem during Marvin Lewis' four years as head coach.
Their pass defense was particularly atrocious last season, finishing in a tie for last in the league. Cornerback Tory James was allowed to leave as a free agent - he signed with New England - after a disappointing season.
Deltha O'Neal also dropped off last season, when he was among the nine Bengals arrested.
Until last year, the Bengals had never used their top pick on a cornerback. Johnathan Joseph was the 24th overall pick out of South Carolina and started nine games, including the last seven. He will inherit James' spot across from O'Neal.
The biggest question about the 5-foot-11, 193-pound Hall was whether he could guard top-rate receivers. Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. and Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett had big games against him at the end of last season.
``In those games, there were a couple of plays where I put myself in bad positions prior to the snap, and I kind of set myself up for failure,'' Hall said.
The Bengals weren't overly concerned.
``In the Ohio State game, he waited too long to turn and run,'' Coyle said.
Hall and Pittsburgh's Darrelle Revis were considered the top two cornerbacks available. The New York Jets made a trade with Carolina and moved up to 14th in the first round, where they took Revis.
Denver moved up to 17th - right before the Bengals - by trading with Jacksonville so it could take defensive end Jarvis Moss from Florida. That left Hall available to the Bengals, who didn't hesitate to make him their second top pick from Michigan. They also chose Perry in the first round in 2004.
Hall understands that he'll be under a spotlight in Cincinnati for how he handles himself.
``I'm also a good character guy,'' Hall said, speaking to reporters from a family celebration in southern California. ``I know for a fact, knowing myself and the people I've put myself around, that I'm staying out of trouble and not having any trouble with that.''
Perry broke his leg last November and may not be ready for the start of training camp, prompting the Bengals to take a running back in the second round. Irons initially will learn Perry's third-down plays.
The Bengals think he can complement Rudi Johnson, another former Auburn running back who runs tackle-to-tackle but lacks breakaway speed.
``He'll definitely give you a change of style when he comes in there,'' offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. ``He's different than Rudi. We haven't had a lot of long runs the last few years. This is the kind of guy that can generate that.''
The Bengals would have liked to draft for defense in the second round, but the players they liked for the 49th overall pick were gone. So, they went for a running back who was familiar with their off-field problems.
``I'm a great character guy,'' Irons said. ``I pride myself on my energy and how people see me and how I carry myself in public. That's one thing my dad always taught us - character is a big issue, it's a big thing nowadays.''

Recent NFL Discussions

Advertisement

NFL Top Stories

Thumbnail Bears vs. Cowboys Pick Will Sunday night's matchup between the Bears and Cowboys fall under the total when the two teams meet at 8:30PM ET in Dallas?
Thumbnail Rams vs. Bucs Pick Will the Rams and Bucs play under the total in Tampa this weekend when the two teams meet at 4:05PM ET on Sunday?
Thumbnail 49ers vs. Seahawks Pick NFC West rivals will square off at 4:05PM ET in Seattle on Sunday. Will the under cash for bettors when the 49ers and Seahawks clash?
Thumbnail Chiefs vs. Jets Pick Will the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets play in the physical football game many expect, or will the game be a...
Thumbnail Chargers vs. Colts Pick Will the Indianapolis Colts be able to put up some big offensive numbers at home when they host the San Diego Chargers this Sunday at...
More inNFL Articles  
Advertisement

NFL Team Pages