FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – After a foundational rookie season, Darren Hall will be looking to establish himself as a standout in the Falcons secondary in his second season. As one of the players in the first draft class for head coach Arthur Smith and GM Terry Fontenot, the young defensive back was able to see some action in his first year in the league.
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The San Diego State product got his first career start against the Buffalo Bills in week 17 and worked to improve his game throughout the season. He played in 14 games and had 27 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, and three pass deflections.
Looking back from last season, being situationally aware is an area where Hall sees improvement.
"I think that was a big thing," Hall said after Monday's practice. "Trying to take on everything at once like the situations, the play calling, who I'm guarding, and watching film. It was a lot to compartmentalize at once, so now that I'm actually comfortable on defense and know what's going on, I just get to play the situation and play at my best."
Hall played 192 snaps in the slot during his rookie campaign. That may have felt unfamiliar, with him rarely taking on that role in college. Learning specific run-defense techniques that will improve that area of his game just adds to an already versatile arsenal. He's a physical corner who's not scared to get in the chest of a receiver, while also able to cover a lot of ground with his speed and athleticism will be essential for this Falcons defense. With A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward Jr. established as starters, Hall could be first man called in the defensive back rotation.
T-minus three days until Detroit #RiseUp
His conviction and belief in himself has been clear in training camp.
"Just when you have that energy and confidence in yourself," Hall said. "When you know what you're capable of, that kind of exudes and it spills out of you."
Last week, Dean Pees made it clear that he’s establishing a new culture surrounding this defense. He wants things to be different from the last 15 years and that's been the mindset he's instilled to all of his players.
"We have a new standard that we're setting here," Hall said. "We're trying to be the No. 1 defense in the NFL so coming out and playing and doing our job 1-of-11 every single day. That's what we break on, that's what we have on our meeting rooms being 1-of-11, doing our jobs and it's working out. It's actually picking up, so we got his back, he got our back, and at the end of the day we're going to play for him and he's going to coach four us."
As the Falcons prepare to travel to Detroit for their first preseason game on Friday, Hall is ready to get back in the thick of game flow.
"It's really exciting," Hall said confidently. "It's been a minute since we actually played a real football game so just getting back to the groove of things, actually getting back and watching some film from last year. Just kind of pick up on certain things that they used to do. Just getting back in that zone of actually playing a real football game so it's real exciting right now."
This will be a vital season for Hall to show more of his arsenal as he will be rotated heavy amongst the defensive backs, but he's ready for the challenge.