A.J. Terrell might not be a highly recognized cornerback in the NFL just yet. He still believes he and the Atlanta Falcons defense have the "savvy'' to get him — and the unit —to "rise up” this fall.
The second-year starter for Atlanta continues to make an impact at camp. On Sunday, he largely stole the show — and stole the football from the offense.
"I'm coming out here competing every day, doing my job," Terrell said after practice Sunday. "I finally got my hands on the ball today. I'm looking for many more during camp."
The Clemson product has looked smooth in his backpedal and quick out of his break when playing the run. In coverage, Terrell continues to make strides against names like Frank Darby and Russell Gage, both of whom are fighting for more reps with the first-team offense.
Perhaps the best play of the afternoon came against Gage during team drills. With A.J. McCarron under center, the former first-rounder was in perfect position to make what would have been a pick-six in a live game by jumping the route in front of Darby.
So much for having a low Madden rating, right A.J.?
"He proves it every day. He gets better," Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. "He's fun to coach, fun to work with. I'm excited about his progress."
Cornerback is considered one of the more challenging positions to adapt to from the collegiate to professional level. Given that Terrell didn't have a full offseason to learn the ropes going into 2020, there were ups and downs.
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This year, Terrell has had time to adapt to the NFL speed.
Terrell credits Calvin Ridley and Kyle Pitts for pushing him in practice. Afterward, he'll speak with both, wondering not what he could have done better, but rather what runs through their mind during the play.
"When I get done with them I try to ask what they were trying to do on a certain route or how they were trying to get me," Terrell said. "We're always teaching each other."
Having a true shutdown cornerback in the NFL is a blessing for a defensive coordinator. In the NFC South, it's a necessity. Names like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Michael Thomas and DJ Moore are considered some of the top in the game.
They all, if healthy, will face Atlanta twice this fall. Terrell seems ready.
Said Terrell: "I just come and do my job and hold myself accountable and do what I do."
Cornerbacks in Atlanta have a standard-bearer in the legendary Deion Sanders. He was "Primetime.'' Terrell seems less about a nickname and more about an adjective.
"Savvy," Terrell said when asked about the secondary. "We want to be savvy.''