Lions wide receiver Nate Burleson pulls in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford as Bengals cornerback Leon Hall defends in the first quarter. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Leon Hall Needs To Step It Up

When the Bengals chose Jonathan Joseph out of South Carolina in 2006 and Leon Hall out of Michigan in 2007, it looked like the Bengals were locking up their starting cornerbacks for years to come.

But, the problem with choosing two first-round corners in back-to-back years is that you gotta pay them big bucks in back-to-back years in order to re-sign them with the team. That caused issues with the Bengals this offseason, and that’s why Jonathan Joseph left to the Houston Texans. Joseph wanted a lot of money when his rookie contract expired, and the Bengals realized that Hall would want a lot of money too. So, the Bengals let Joseph go. He signed for $9.75 million a year, one of the biggest contracts in the league for a cornerback.

The Bengals may extend Leon Hall‘s contract at some point during 2011. In doing so, the Bengals will have ‘chosen’ Hall.

Which, at the time of Joseph’s contract negotiations, seemed like the right choice. Hall has arguably been playing better than Jonathan Joseph, and he’s been on the field more than Joseph, who has missed 12 games in the last 3 years due to injury.

But, turn the page to 2011 and Hall has been miserable so far. I don’t want to rush to judgment, but Hall has been repeatedly burned by rookie WR AJ Green in training camp (I actually excused this in an earlier article, saying “Don’t blame Hall, blame Green”). What further changed my mind was the two touchdown catches against Hall in the preseason game against Detroit. Two! And Hall only played the first quarter! Calvin Johnson turned Hall around like a Merry-go-round and even Nate Burleson was able to gain some incredible separation on Hall in his own touchdown snag. Hall can and should play better than that.

In all fairness, it’s still very early. And, Hall was playing the left cornerback position against Detroit, as opposed to his usual right spot.

But, c’mon Leon! If he carries this play into the regular season (God, I hope not), Hall will be hurting his own team, and hurting his chances at a major contract in 2012. And, it only adds salt to the wound for the fans, who had hated to see Jonathan Joseph go.

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