Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell has been stellar in his first two NFL seasons, but what can the All-Pro improve upon in his third season?
Now 23, the former Clemson Tiger had a solid rookie campaign in 2020 after being the final first-round pick of the last regime but took his game to a different level in 2021, establishing himself as one of the game's best corners.
However, that doesn't mean he can't be better. Head coach Arthur Smith was asked in a press conference where Terrell can improve the most ...
"His awareness," Smith answered. "That's why you can get into a lot of these stats, and there's certain coverages you can play where you can almost dictate the ball's not going to go there. I think he's showing he can play in different types of coverage that we're asking him to do. Certainly, may be certain times we may ask him just to match up on a certain player."
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Terrell's traits and game-by-game dominance are clear indicators that he's here to stay but posting another season with similarly outstanding performances will only cement his status among the league's best.
The common talking point among doubters of Terrell is his lack of experience shadowing receivers. For the most part, defensive coordinator Dean Pees assigned Terrell to play the boundary, or short side, in Atlanta's defense, but allowed his star cover corner to shadow Buffalo Bills All-Pro wideout Stefon Diggs in the season's penultimate game, with the results proving he's more than capable.
Firmly one of the faces of Atlanta's franchise, Terrell will be heavily relied upon as a leader and playmaker as the Falcons try to change their current trajectory. Suddenly entering his third and final season before Atlanta can pick up his fifth-year option and put a contract extension on the table, Terrell is primed for another outstanding season, along with the rest of the Falcons' secondary ... so long as he is aware of what he is capable of.