|Bengals rookie cornerback Leon Hall gets second start for Bengals|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 11 October 2007 13:57|
The rookie cornerback is expected to make his second start Sunday for the Cincinnati Bengals, whose defense is depleted by injury and suspension heading into a pivotal game at Kansas City.
Starter Johnathan Joseph, a first-round pick last year, will serve a one-game suspension from the NFL for violating its substance abuse policy, the result of his arrest for marijuana possession earlier this year.
Hall, the Bengals' first-round pick this year out of Michigan, started the season opener, when Joseph was recovering from a foot injury. He has been an extra cornerback on passing downs in the last three games.
It's a critical game for Cincinnati (1-3), which can't afford to fall farther behind in the AFC North. And the rookie cornerback knows he'll be targeted when the Chiefs throw the ball.
``I hope so,'' Hall said Thursday. ``It's a good thing to have them not throw your way, kind of a respect thing. At the same time, you don't get to make interceptions and breakups. I hope they come after me and test me. I feel I've had a good week of practice.''
Hall leads the team with two interceptions - he picked off Tom Brady in a 34-13 loss to New England heading into the Bengals' bye week - and has knocked down four passes, tied for second on the team.
Hall also has given up some big plays. His inexperience showed during a 51-45 loss in Cleveland, when the entire defense - rookies and veterans alike - lost their composure during one of the worst showings in franchise history.
``I think Leon has experienced maybe a little bit more of the ups and downs of a rookie than I expected him to,'' coach Marvin Lewis said. ``He's got all the tools we want, so he'll have a fine career. He's learning on the fly a little bit.
``He's gotten thrown into the fire right away, which is a good thing. He has the makeup both mentally and physically to do that. He'll come out of this, as I told him, a much, much better player than what he was when he went into it.''
Part of the problem is that he's not the only rookie trying to figure things out. Fourth-round safety Marvin White and seventh-round safety Chinedum Ndukwe have played in all four games as well.
One of the NFL's lowest-ranked defenses spent the bye week trying to get on the same page of the playbook.
``We've got a group of those three (rookies), and they've gotten a chance to play some football,'' Lewis said. ``In the bye, you have a way to kind of pull back from it and look at what you've done.''
Hall figured his first season would be a struggle at times, as it is for every rookie cornerback. He gives himself a decent mark for the first four games.
``I think I did OK,'' he said. ``I think I did all right. I set my expectations high. I realize that sometimes corners do get beat or make some bad plays. Even if I make that one (bad) play, I'm still mad at myself for doing it. I think I can do a lot better.''
Chiefs cornerback Ty Law, who also went to Michigan, understands Hall's plight.
``In the NFL, everybody is fast,'' said Law, a five-time Pro Bowl player. ``Everybody is quicker. If he stays strong-willed and mentally tough, he'll be fine. Everyone is going to take his lumps in this game.''