The Falcons have an absolute star in the making with A.J. Terrell patrolling the boundaries in Atlanta. He’ll be the centerpiece of this defense for a long time. The new regime in Atlanta has to be incredibly grateful for Thomas Dimitroff’s final parting gift. Terrell enjoyed quite the breakout campaign in 2021 and was predictably rewarded with All-Pro honors, going from an average cover man to being named second-team All-Pro in just one offseason.
Terrell allowed the fourth-fewest yards in coverage this past season among all defensive backs with at least 1,000 snaps, and he was first among cornerbacks. He posted league-best marks in several metrics, including completion percentage allowed (41.1%) and yards allowed per target (4.1). The Clemson product has been recognized by a bevy of outlets, making top 25 under 25 lists and even receiving recognition from his peers via ESPN rankings.
Terrell was one of the biggest breakouts of the 2021 season — and the lone bright spot on Atlanta’s weak defense. The 2020 first-round pick allowed an NFL-leading 0.37 yards per coverage snap — a mark that was just one-hundredth of a yard off from the single-season PFF record owned by Asante Samuel (2010) and Nnamdi Asomugha (2008). He’s proving to be a scheme-versatile player with elite movement skills, speed and discipline. The former Clemson Tiger has developed into a reliable island corner, too, shutting down Mike Evans, Antonio Brown and D.J. Moore last year.
Terrell is doing all of the right things, even trying to take the next step in the intangibles department. During a media session after the team’s first voluntary workout earlier this offseason, Terrell told reporters one of his goals this year is to “be that ultimate leader on the defense.” The club desperately needs leaders. Terrell is seemingly taking that responsibility seriously, which is more than encouraging and exactly what the Falcons want in their stars.
Photographer: David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire