Your local internet expert is here to put Falcons surprising 1st round pick AJ Terrell under the scope. To see other picks, Marlon Davidson’s Film or Matt Hennessy’s Film just click the link.
First thing that is going to matter for Terrell: Mental fortitude. Here is an Atlanta born kid who went to school in GA’s backyard and returns to Atlanta to play for their NFL franchise, but based on early fan reactions, it’s not going to be easy sledding for the young man. Add on what I see on film of a couple areas savvy QBs like Brady and Brees can expose early in his pro career. This is a perfect mixture to tear down a young CBs confidence, and the one thing a CB can’t lose under any circumstances is his swagger and confidence. However, this won’t be a complete indicment, because he is an Atlanta kid AND shows on film the tools to fit the zone 3 Quinn employs. Receivers like Emmanuel Sanders, M. Thomas, or M. Evans will eat you alive in this division if you do not bring your A game every Sunday. The good news for Terrell comes from his practice teammates Julio & Calvin. Facing off against those two day in and day out will certainly help excelerate the learning curve since he’s going to get a good look at two very different, but great players at the receiver postion. Furthermore, Terrell is a very talented prospect and people should not get overly sold on draft experts “big board”.
Would we have loved to get Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons? You’re damn right! However, I also like we didn’t give up any capital and were able to address a need postion with one of the top 3 players at the position on many peoples boards. The draft is deep at CB, but most guys past Terrell and Trevon Diggs of Alabama start projecting as slot CB which is where Sheffield showed a lot of promise last season. So all things considered, I think the Falcons took a good approach given the win now mode. Day 2 picks will make or break this draft for TD & Quinn, and many people feel they’re on the hot seat this season. So they didn’t take a huge risk, addressed a need, but are banking the success of the defense on a CB who is inconsistent on film. The saving grace may be that the things you also see on film are mainly technique and strength related. Those are two area’s that can be addressed, and quickly, if the player is up to putting in the extra work. Time will tell…
Without further ado, lets start getting into this film session. This isn’t a big surprise to anyone who watched the National Championship, but he has a tendancy to get beat on double moves. When lined up in press man, he can find himself in great position off the snap, but not having any jam allows receivers to get off the line too. This can give them a chance to easily hard fake a slant and really hit the stop and go
He also doesn’t show a a great ability on jump balls against bigger receivers. At 6’1 and a nearly 6’4 wingspan, these attributes help overcome the fact he really doesnt show much explosion in leaping for balls on film. This also showed up at the combine with an underwhelming 34.5″ vert.
He’s not a terrible press corner on the line, but he can get beat on hesitation moves and rely on his speed over being physical in college. However, Terrell was only beat for a TD once in the red zone in 2019 and only allowed one other meaningless 2yd catch in the red zone. The one TD is probably one everyone remembers, and happend to be against the WR who will most likely be the top taken in 2021 NFL draft. Even in this instance it took a great throw and route by one of the nations most dynamic receivers to open the opportunity.
One of the other flags is Terrell can sometimes rely on grabs vs technique. Falcons fans are sure to remember how frustrating this could be with Robert Alford. In college, Terrell could mask some of the grabbing with speed, but against NFL receivers that speed gap will close. He is going to have to trust his technique more in the NFL and disrupt routes/receivers at the line if he wants to be a #1
There is one other note that stood out to me in film that makes the pick a bit more intruiging. EDITORS THOUGHTS: I do not believe the Falcons truly had Terrell over Henderson. I do believe the Falcons could not get the capital to move up. Jacksonville was heavily rumoured for trade and they drafted him. The cost to move to #7 or 8 with Brown & Simmons on the board was just too high. END
The worrisome trend is the way he plays off the ball can become easy pickings for quick plays both slants and comeback patterns which opens up the deep ball mentioned above. He also had some easy tells on film where he’d shift his stance about a second before the snap. Against Brees or Brady, they’ll pick that up so he’ll need to learn to be patient in his positioning. This is a little harder to gauge how much is on Terrell without knowing the play call, however, you’d like to see him use that speed to his advantage to either make more deflections or picks. His ability to learn to trust his technique and cover change of direction routes without biting stop & go routes will be a key development (comes from the time in the film room). On the positive side, he does appear to be a good tackler in terms of once the pass is made, hitting the receiver upon the catch.
Now let’s talk about a few things that stood out in film that makes me a fan of the Atlanta kid and hopeful he can be a great addition to the team. One of the areas of concern above is his deep ball ability. However, in watching the film, you see he is rarely targeted on deep throws which can skew numbers. He covers a lot more routes and his target per route is very low. The reason is, when Terrell trust his technique and abilities he can do a great job using field positioning and sidelines to blanket the receiver and take away most the QB’s throwing windows greatly complicating the throw. Here is the one target I could find on a deep throw where Terrell was in position, and the consequences for QB’s not hitting that small window
One of Terrell’s best aspects is his red zone coverage. As I mentioned above, I could only find one play he was beat in the red zone. He does a really good job of having field awareness and using his speed and the sideline to take away throwing options. Even when throws are made in the tight areas possibly available, Terrell closes quickly and does a great job getting his hand in to disrupt the play.
Lastly, what I wanted to really deep dive into was the national championship. I remember watching the game and asking was Terrell really their #1 CB? Dabo and Clemson are known for having great DBsin his history at Clemson. So I dove into the tape and tried to sort out a bit more of the game and what went down now that the live emotions are no longer there. I had the highlight above where Chase beat Terrell in the red zone, and one thing I found really interesting is they only targeted Terrell in one on one matchups with Ja’Mar Chase. LSU or Joe Burrow did not trust targeting any other reciever with him in coverage.
Below is the play, and as you can see both off the line and in the initial route down field, Terrell is in great position. Then for some reason, whether it was a slight stumble or mis step, he loses a half step and Burrow makes a great throw. He’s not in terrible position, and honestly, may have been able to make a play on the ball had he gotten his head around as well. However, he ultimately got beat and will need to learn from it
As you continue to watch the game, you also see as the game goes on Terrell begins to look more like the shut down corner some believe he can be. He was targeted once in the second half (one of the highlights below) and allowed zero completions. This while the game was still a tight contest for Clemson. Also within some of those big plays are some less known plays but show he wasn’t as outmatched against Chase as some may remember from the emotion of the National Championship. Here are a couple one on one matchups with Chase where Terrell’s skills and technique when right really showcase what he’s capable of in coverage.
All in all when going through the full deep dive, I walk away less disappointed and more optimistic we got a player who can contribute right away. There will be a learning curve, undoubtedly, and I would not be surprised to see him pick up early season penalties. I also would not be surprised to see him get beat a time or two against the more savvy vets of the league. However, I also believe he can have a good season even as a rookie, not be a liability, and show as soon as this season he can legitimately be a Trufant replacement. Terrell possibly could be even better than Trufant, who had a really good career with the Falcons. Don’t sleep on him, and don’t let a couple headaches early on in his career make you believe he doesn’t have the potential to be a #1 CB in the league. If he has a good head on his shoulder, watches film, and puts in the work, I have all the confidence he will work out to be a great pick for the Falcons. How they draft on Day 2 will be more indicative of the Falcons success this season than the less flashy, but overall solid pick of AJ Terrell. The potential is there for him to do great things for the A. Lets welcome the homegrown, Atlanta kid back to his & our city!
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