How A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward could form Atlanta Falcons’ top position group – Atlanta Falcons blog

ATLANTA – Day by day, week by week, practice by practice last season, Atlanta Falconscornerback A.J. TerrellIt started to show more. The potential that was once there was now being realized was producing. What once was hope in a first-round pick turned into a player who might be the best on the team’s defense.

Now, with a clearly rebuilding roster for 2022, which still has many questions after the completion of the first wave of free agency, there's one position group in the Falcons that stands out. It is, if it's not complete, it is at least potentially extremely talented.

That’s at cornerback, where Terrell emerged as one of the best at his position in the NFLLast season and may be the Falcons' most valuable player. Period. Atlanta added another highly-credentialed option by signing a former Pro Bowler Casey Hayward Jr. Terrell can be matched on the outside.

The 32-year old is still half a decade removed from his back to back Pro Bowl seasons with the Los Angeles ChargersTerrell can still rely on him to be a reliable starter.

“It’s going to mean a lot,” Terrell said. “… “… Definitely something, I can’t wait to get in the building with him and talk with him and just have fun going into next season.”

It’s a season that may have bumps along the way — the Falcons have admitted they are in transition after trading quarterback Matt RyanThe Indianapolis ColtsLast month was a dark one, but cornerback could be a bright spot. It could strengthen the already strong relationship Terrell and Hayward have.

They share an agent, David Mulugheta, of Athletes first, which was part the reason they were both introduced. They’ve remained in contact since and have familiarity with each other. They also have a mutual admiration society.

Terrell was a child and used to sit in Hayward's corner. Terrell was one of Hayward's favorite players last season. By osmosis, he ended up understanding part of Atlanta’s defense and his potential role in it.

“I got to kind of see the kind of defense that they play and it suits me well,” Hayward said. “So I’m excited to get better, play hard, go out there and compete. The goal is always to go and win games, no matter how people view the roster.”

The roster is strong at the corner. The team was re-signed Isaiah OliverHe could be the nickel for a player who was having a breakout season and had just to tear his ACL. Darren HallNow entering his second season, he showed promise as a rookie, being thrown in an unexpected position as someone who needed to play meaningful snaps after Oliver was down.

So it’s a group that defensive coordinator Dean Pees can work with and one Hayward, in looking at Terrell, can genuinely be excited about. Not since Hayward’s time with the Green Bay PackersHayward could have had someone as talented at the other cornerback position when Sam Shields was the starting cornerback. Hayward was with Chargers in the 1980s. Jason VerrettHe was often injured but he was present. Last season with Las Vegas RaidersHis running buddies were great — but not at the same level as Terrell.

“This is probably my first time in my career,” Hayward said, “where on the other side, I’m like, dang, this guy is super talented and can go out there and lock the number ones up and one lot of the top guys in the league.”

And it’s a pairing the Falcons hope can help improve a defense still sorting everything else out.

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