Cornerback has been the bane of the San Francisco 49ers seven games into the 2022 NFL season. Injuries across the back end have reduced what was once the toughest unit in the league to a sieve quarterbacks are picking apart for fun.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs were the latest offense to score freely against the depleted Niners. Mahomes amassed 423 yards and three touchdowns through the air during a 44-23 win at Levi’s Stadium in Week 7.
The Chiefs found it easy to exploit a secondary missing corner Emmanuel Moseley. Coordinator DeMeco Ryans needs a scheme-ready replacement for Moseley, and the 49ers could get one from the New York Jets for the modest cost of late-round compensation in next year’s draft.
‘Solid Depth’ Available for Cheap
Bryce Hall is no longer a starter for the Jets, but he knows the type of defense the 49ers play thanks to head coach Robert Saleh. The latter called the D’ for the Niners when they reached Super Bowl LIV in 2019. Ryans was on that staff as inside linebackers coach.
Saleh could do his old team a favor of sorts by sending Hall to San Francisco. It would only cost the 49ers a sixth-round pick next year, according to Brad Spielberger of Pro Football Focus.
General manager John Lynch still has one of those, despite sending four picks to the Carolina Panthers for running back Christian McCaffrey. Spielberger detailed how “San Francisco is still expected to have eight draft picks in 2023, with five coming from the compensatory pick system.”
Eight picks is practically a bounty for a GM who has rarely been afraid to deal choices for ready-made talent. Hall qualifies, even though he’s gone “from a starter in 2021 to a frequent healthy scratch in 2022.”
As Spielberger pointed out, the Jets have been able do without Hall after drafting Sauce Gardner fourth overall this year. They also added D.J. Reed from the Seattle Seahawks in free agency.
The new-look duo is thriving, per numbers from PFF’s Connor Rogers:
Statistics like this show the Jets no longer have much use for Hall, but the 49ers would give him plenty of opportunities to recapture his 2021 form.
49ers Need Numbers, Talent at CB
Numbers are in short supply on the depth chart for the 49ers. Moseley is out for the season thanks to a torn ACL, while Charvarius Ward suffered a groin injury against the Chiefs.
Jason Verrett is the best of the other options, but as Spielberger noted, “it’s risky to rely on his continued health given his injury history.” Verrett, 31, has missed 34 games the last three seasons.
At the very least, Hall would be a “solid depth addition” and potentially more if he got his game back on track. He’d get every chance to do so in a scheme suited to his talents.
Ryans still calls the same defense he learned from Saleh, namely lots of zone coverage. The 49ers run “the third-most zone coverage” in the league, per Pro Football Focus.
Lots of zone calls still give corners license to play press on the outside. It’s one reason the Jets wanted Reed from the Seahawks, who’ve played the same coverage for years under head coach Pete Carroll.
Press is also Hall’s most effective technique:
Being able to win in press also lends a defense the flexibility to match up in man coverage. Ryans may want his defensive backs to do that more often after the way the Niners’ zones were picked apart by the Chiefs.
Hall is worth a low-risk trade for a 49ers team in danger of being completely derailed by a revolving carousel of brittle players at a key position.