Second-year Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
The Falcons selected Terrell in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Falcons took him with the 16th pick of the first round. He was the third cornerback tabbed, behind Jeff Okudah, No. 3 overall by the Detroit Lions, and C.J. Henderson, No. 9 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But today? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn't make Terrell the first cornerback taken in a redraft.
Okudah played in nine games as a rookie and tore his Achilles in the season opener this season.
Henderson was shipped out of Jacksonville after playing just 10 games. He's a reserve cornerback with the Carolina Panthers now.
And Terrell? He's developing into a standout, and he partially credits his growth as a player to better preparation and understanding of his opponents through film study he first learned as a Clemson Tiger.
"I could name a lot of people that helped me out with that," said Terrell. "But somebody in particular, I didn't start watching film of course until college."
"I remember he used to give us a sheet of paper to go down the list of things we need to look at when we're watching film vs. receivers. He really told me what to watch out for going into the week."
The learning curve for a rookie player can be steep, and Terrell enforces the idea of keeping it simple and playing free.
"I don't like going into the week thinking too much," said Terrell. "I try to keep my head simple and being able to just go play. When you're thinking too much, I feel you play slow."
"I just like to anticipate, trust my abilities, and go make plays."
Terrell has been making plays all year for the Falcons. In seven games, he's only given up 13 receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Falcons take on the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Dallas has the NFL's No. 1 ranked offense and a pair of standout receivers in CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper.
If Atlanta is going to pull off a second-straight road upset, they'll need Terrell playing his very best.
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Which is to say... like he's been playing all season.