The Falcons might have one of the best cornerback tandems in football this season. With AJ Terrell coming off an All-Pro campaign, expectations are incredibly high for the third-year man out of Clemson. Opposite him, Casey Hayward has long been one of the most consistent cover men in football. Terry Fontenot inked the former Raider, Charger, and Packer to a two-year deal worth $11 million, but he didn’t stop there. Fontenot also brought back slot corner Isaiah Oliver, who before his season-ending injury, looked like the breakout player of the team after the switch inside.
If Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins can take significant steps forward in their respective development, Atlanta could actually have a halfway decent defense this year. The Falcons might need everything to go right for that to happen, though — no severe injuries, Hayward and Terrell to play up to expectations, Oliver to return to his 2021 level of play, and notable strides from the safety tandem. Because the competition the Falcons’ pass defense is going to face this season is daunting.
Check out the receiving cores of the Falcons’ opponents in 2022:
- Weeks 1 & 15, Saints: Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Jarvis Landry, Chris Olave
- Week 2, Rams: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson
- Week 3, Seahawks: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Noah Fant
- Week 4, Browns: Amari Cooper, David Njoku
- Weeks 5 & 18, Bucs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Russell Gage, Cameron Brate
- Week 6, 49ers: Deebo Samuel, George Kittle
- Week 7, Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins
- Weeks 8 & 10, Panthers: Christian McCaffery, DJ Moore, Robby Anderson
- Week 9, Chargers: Kennan Allen, Mike Williams
- Week 11, Bears: Don’t worry, lol
- Week 12, Commanders: Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel
- Week 13, Steelers: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens, Pat Freiermuth
- Week 16, Ravens: Rashod Bateman, Mark Andrews
- Week 17, Cardinals: Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, Zach Ertz
I understand some of these individuals aren’t elite or even WR1 material, but what all of these teams have is at least one elite-caliber pass-catcher or an impressive unit as a whole. The Saints boast one of the most dangerous receiving backs in Kamara with two high-level slot guys in Thomas and Landry. Cooper Kupp is arguably the league’s best wideout, and he’s been paired with Allen Robinson, one of the more underrated pass-catchers in the league. Metcalf is still the most physically imposing receiver in football. The Bucs always have a deadly core. The 49ers have two of the most dangerous run after catch guys in Samuel and Kittle. The Bengals… yikes, I could stand not to watch that.
The only team that really doesn’t have a single guy who can threaten the Falcons’ secondary is the Bears, which single handily has the worst receiving core in football. The Falcons will face five or six of the ten best receivers and six of the ten best tight ends in football from a year ago. Atlanta’s cornerbacks are probably up for the challenge, but I am concerned about the safety group.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire