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Using the word elite when discussing a Falcons defender hasn’t happened very often in recent years. Defensive lineman Grady Jarrett and linebacker Deion Jones have at times been regarded as elite, and now a member of Atlanta’s secondary is playing his way into the discussion.
The Falcons’ selection of A.J. Terrell in the first round of the 2020 draft was met with plenty of skepticism. Cornerback was a position of dire need at the time, but many wanted Atlanta to select LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson instead of Terrell in the first round and and go cornerback in the later rounds.
Many also criticized the team for passing on wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who went one spot after Atlanta.
@_aimeeeech @OrellanamikeS why did it I stay up past 4am to watch this booty pick? I swear, if this kid ain’t the Jet Jones of CBs in year 2, I’m done with this team. This is like that Daniel Jones pick pic.twitter.com/XYJk4KQgjc
— Tre Bae Bae (@TBunknasty) April 24, 2020
While that’s just one comment on the selection, the sentiment was shared by a vast majority of Falcons fans.
When looking at on the stats sheet, we can see just how far Terrell separates himself from others. He is one of five cornerbacks to allow for a 40 percent or less completion rate. Terrell is also second in yards allowed (42) and tied for first with yards per reception (7.0).
The biggest cornerback making waves from that 2020 draft class is Trevon Diggs, a second-round selection by the Cowboys with six interceptions on the season. While interceptions are vital to a team’s success, it isn’t the only metric to judge a defensive back by. Terrell has an average snap to reception count of 23.3. This stat is very impressive, especially considering he is targeted once every eight coverage snaps on average.
Against the Jets, Terrell held Corey Davis to zero catches on two attempts. In Week 4, he held Washington’s Terry McLaurin to zero catches. Against the Buccaneers in Week 2, Terrell didn’t allow a catch to Antonio Brown or Mike Evans. His two impressive pass breakups against Brown played a key role in keeping the Falcons in the contest for as long as they were.
Above is just one of two examples where Terrell was able to reach up and break up a completion by Brown. Looking at one of his two targets up against Corey Davis in Week 5, we can see Terrell has the speed and discipline to keep up with Davis deep and not bite on the head fake.
Below is another good example of Terrell taking away a receiving option when he’s matched up against Corey Davis on the right side. Terrell’s coverage forced Zach Wilson to look off his top target with his lateral agility to stick with Corey Davis both inside and out. Wilson was forced to buy time in an effort to give Davis time to break free from Terrell’s hold. Ultimately, Wilson is forced to look elsewhere and throws the ball out of bounds.
With all the good Terrell has done through his first four games (sat out Week 3 with concussion), he needed a rebound after an underwhelming performance in Week 1. Terrell had a 75 percent completion rate and allowed 30 yards in total — the most by any Falcons CB in Week 1.
Coming out of the bye week, it is imperative that Terrell continues his hot streak. The next three receivers the second-year corner is likely to line up against are DeVante Parker of the Dolphins, Deonte Harris of the Saints and DJ Moore in Carolina. All three average more than 12 yards per reception and have been targeted 15 or more times this season. Moore leads the way with 35 receptions on 49 targets.
If Terrell continues to play like he has for the rest of the year, he’ll be firmly in the elite discussion around the NFL.
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