Inside the Huddle: CB Deiondre’ Hall missing piece of good draft
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Adam L. Jahns’ “Inside the Huddle” column appears in game-day editions of the Sun-Times.
The Bears have waited a long time to see rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall on the field again. It was a long — and painful — wait for Hall, too.
‘‘It was just not rushing and knowing I’ll play through some pain,’’ Hall said. ‘‘It’s just knowing that I could make it through a game and be productive versus going out there and being non-productive.’’
Hall was productive the last time he played. In Week 4, he intercepted an errant pass by quarterback Matt Stafford to secure the Bears’ 17-14 victory against the Lions at Soldier Field.
A few days later, Hall severely sprained his right ankle during practice. The momentum he had built in the first four weeks came to abrupt, agonizing end.
Hall’s injury involved enough ligament damage that he was put in a hard cast for a month and a half and required a scooter to get around.
‘‘Man, I tell you what, anything beats being in that cast,’’ said Hall, who is healthy enough to play Sunday in Detroit.
Hall’s ability to regain his early form in the final stretch of the season is crucial. At this point, he’s considered more important to the Bears’ future than Kyle Fuller, the 14th overall pick in 2014.
It was important to the Bears for Hall to return this season, even in a limited role. It’s why they didn’t put him on injured reserve. Every bit of game action helps his development.
‘‘It was coming together, and I was slowly starting to get opportunities,’’ Hall said. ‘‘But now it’s just trying to get back on the field wherever I can.’’
As a group, the Bears’ rookie class excelled during Hall’s absence.
Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd leads all rookies with seven sacks. Center Cody Whitehair has entrenched himself as a starter in a new position. And running back Jordan Howard is on pace to surpass 1,000 rushing yards.
Even inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski and safety Deon Bush — the two players selected in the fourth round before Hall — are playing more and, according to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, doing well.
Kwiatkoski has started two consecutive games with veterans Danny Trevathan (injured reserve) and Jerrell Freeman (suspended) out. Bush has made three starts in a row.
‘‘To see all these guys getting playing time as the season goes on, it’s awesome to watch guys make plays,’’ Hall said. ‘‘We all started out together. To finish together this year will be awesome.’’
When Hall last played, he had a role in the red zone. He described it as ‘‘selective reps.’’ His size and long arms are an advantage with a shorter field.
‘‘He was giving us some length,’’ Fangio said. ‘‘He’s a long guy. He can get his hand on the ball. He’s got good ball anticipation when the ball’s thrown to a guy he’s covering. He was improving.’’
In general terms, Hall creates matchup problems.
‘‘He’s a bigger body who can do some low-safety type of work as far as matchups, as well as outside as a corner,’’ coach John Fox said. ‘‘Those are things we’ll lean on moving forward if he’s healthy.’’
Hall said he’s eager to join the young mix in the secondary.
Rookie cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, an undrafted waiver-wire pickup from the Patriots, has become competition for Hall. He has started five consecutive games.
‘‘At first, it kind of was [discouraging],’’ Hall said of his long absence. ‘‘But you get over it and keep moving on and gain knowledge from the guys that I can and just watch film.
‘‘I can’t take it as a complete loss for missing however many games I missed. You’ve got to keep moving on if you’re going to have a career in the NFL.’’
The competition at both safety spots is wide-open. And Adrian Amos, who has started all 27 games he has appeared in, might be behind Harold Jones-Quartey and rookie Deon Bush.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio liked how Jones-Quartey and Bush played last week in the Bears’ victory against the 49ers. Amos missed the first game of his career because a foot injury.
In the past, the Bears have praised Amos for his steadiness. But they want more big plays from him. Amos has yet to make an interception. He also struggled in coverage before his injury.
The Bears have put an emphasis on being sound assignment-wise. If one of the young safeties is going to get beaten, it had better happen with him in the right position. Mental mistakes aren’t tolerated.
It’s why Jones-Quartey was benched in favor of Bush a few weeks ago.
It’s Timu time, too
It’s imperative that rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski develops in the final four games as he fills in for Jerrell Freeman (suspension) and Danny Trevathan (injured reserve).
But second-year linebacker John Timu shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s not a gifted athlete, but coaches value his instincts and smarts. Kwiatkoski said Timu has helped him with the defensive calls.
Coach John Fox pointed to Timu’s tackle for a three-yard loss on Lions running back Zach Zenner on the goal line in Week 4. Timu was making his first start of the season for an injured Trevathan.
Overall, Timu is proving to be more than a serviceable backup.
‘‘John’s been reliable,’’ Fox said. ‘‘He’s started a lot for us — even last year — so our guys have a lot of confidence in him. We do, too, as a coaching staff.’’
There isn’t much film on Bears quarterback Matt Barkley. His time with the Eagles doesn’t mean much because of how different that offense was compared to that of Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains.
The Bears’ game plan for Barkley will expand after his two starts against the Titans and 49ers. To a certain extent, it’s an advantage for the Bears.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been impressed by what he has seen from Barkley on film.
‘‘He has a great running game that he’s certainly been taking advantage of,’’ Caldwell said. ‘‘That sets up all his play-action passes. But he’s been throwing the ball well. He’s very capable. He’s got good leadership qualities and those kinds of things that it takes to play that spot. He’s done that very well. He’s a talented guy.’’
1.2 — Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s interception percentage, the lowest of his career.
0 — Number of sacks Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah has this season. He had 14.5 last season.
18.1 — Percentage of Bears quarterback Matt Barkley’s passes that have been dropped in the previous two games.