It is now becoming a weekly habit of pointing out A.J. Terrell’s excellent play, this time, against arguably the best receiver core in the NFL. In nearly every facet of the game, the Falcons looked pathetic — in the trenches, on the boundaries, and even on special teams. The Falcons receivers, other than Kyle Pitts, couldn’t separate themselves from Dallas defenders, but even if they were open, Matt Ryan had no time to get the ball out anyway. The defense is a disaster on all fronts. Zero presence in the trenches; Deion Jones had one of his worst games to date, and there’s quite a large hole at nickel since Isaiah Oliver hit the injured reserve.
BUT, Terrell was one of the few bright spots. The entire secondary was torched, but it is difficult when defending the spectacular trio of CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. Though he did leave the game momentarily, Terrell only surrendered 19 yards on two catches from three targets. He’s experienced incredible growth in coverage and has ascended into rare air among the league’s best, but what seldom gets talked about is his physicality and willingness when defending the run, which I’m sure he takes great pride in. We are ten weeks into the NFL season, and the former first round pick hasn’t given up 100 total yards yet.
Terrell doesn’t see many targets a game because of his blanket coverage, but that’s not the only reason. Fabian Moreau, though he plays respectably on most of the field, does give up some plays inside the 20-yard line and is the victim of many more targets. The Falcons personnel dictates more big nickel with three safeties on the field instead of three cornerbacks, but against a team like Dallas, who plays so much 11 personnel, it’s impossible to defend. The Falcons have a real issue at nickel, though Avery Williams and Darren Hall may still grow into that role.
Terrell might not be to the level of Desmond Trufant, Rolland Lawrence, Brent Grimes, or Deion Sanders at their peaks (which were pretty high even if they were brief), but he will continue to face the best receivers in the league and build his résumé. He’s quickly ascended into elite territory, and it will be encouraging going forward for Terry Fontenot, knowing that Terrell will be on one side of his defense for many years to come.