Cincinnati Bengals: Five Players To Watch vs. the Falcons

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Leon Hall will need to be huge in the slot this weekend. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Leon Hall

Leon Hall may be the most important defender the Bengals have this Sunday.  The Falcons love to run four wide sets, with their dangerous group of receivers, and with Julio Jones and Roddy White bookending the field, the Bengals can ill-afford to have their safeties worried about underneath routes.  This is where the Bengals will need Leon Hall to shine.

Leon Hall has been a tremendous cornerback for the Bengals over the years, but Sunday will be his first real test following the second achilles injury of his career.  Hall has impressed everyone with his ability to recover quickly and return to the field, but following his first injury, it took Hall much of the season to really get back to his old form.  This weekend will prove whether or not Hall has fully recovered and is back to his old self.  He understands the difficulty of covering slot receivers, evidenced by his comments today (via Geoff Hobson) about covering former Bengals’ slot receiver Andrew Hawkins in the past.

"“As great as A.J. is, I’d much rather go against A.J. than I would go against Hawkins. Guaranteed. He’s smart and he’s crafty. Just because he goes in one direction doesn’t mean he’s going to go in that direction. He’s so quick. If you have any hesitation, you’re already going to be a step behind and obviously quarterbacks are good and they’re going to put the ball where it needs to be. That’s not comforting to a DB.”"

Hall will need to have his game face on for Sunday as he’ll likely be in the slot facing both Harry Douglas and Devin Hester.  Both of these players possess the type of speed and quickness that Hawkins does and if you’re thinking that Hester may be less of a threat due to his past struggles at receiver, think again.  Here’s coach Marvin Lewis on Devin Hester during a press conference yesterday.

"Q: Are you surprised at how easily Devin Hester was able to flow right in there as a receiver? A: “In my opinion, they’ve got one of the best receiver coaches in the NFL in Terry Robiskie. If you look at wherever Terry has coached, his players have played at a very high level consistently, both young players and old players. He’s able to bring the best out of guys. He’s very demanding and he’s done a great job. He’s gotten Devin, too. He never quite turned the corner in Chicago as a wideout. He made some explosive plays this preseason and then obviously in the game Sunday.”"

Hall, along with Adam Jones and Darqueze Dennard, will probably rotate in the slot throughout the game.  But if the Falcons try to stretch the field often, they’ll probably use the four-receiver set to do so.  This will mean Hall will likely see 1:1 coverage for most of the day while Terence Newman, Dre Kirkpatrick, and the Bengals’ safeties try to contain the Falcons’ dangerous outside duo.  If Hall plays the way Bengal fans have come to expect from him in the slot, it’ll not only prove his health, but will also allow the Bengals a much easier time dealing with the Falcons offense.