Atlanta Falcons new cornerback duo among most underrated in NFL

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images /

Despite the Atlanta Falcons set to field a seemingly lackluster roster heading into the season, there is one position on their roster that ranks above a majority of teams in the NFL.

After picking up second-team All-Pro honors in his sophomore season with the Atlanta Falcons, A.J. Terrell will team up with two-time Pro Bowler and former NFL interceptions leader Casey Hayward, who signed with Atlanta on a  two-year, $11 million deal in March.

Last season, the two combined for just 588 yards on their respective teams, each having much-needed breakout seasons.

One of the lone bright spots on the Atlanta Falcons defense last season, Terrell had an enormous breakout season where he was targeted just 66 times and allowed just 0.37 yards per coverage snap.

Terrell also led the league in targeted expected points added (-29.4), while boasting a -14.6% catch rate allowed below expectation and a mere 49.9 allowed passer rating.

After his tremendous play last season, Pro Football Focus has the former first-round pick ranked as the third outside cornerback in the NFL behind Jalen Ramsay and Jaire Alexander, noting Terrell’s development into an island corner after locking down some of football’s top receivers.

Now, the Falcons are giving Terrell a proven veteran to play alongside, with Casey Hayward being signed away from the Las Vegas Raiders in free agency.

Hayward has proved to be one of the more underrated defensive backs in the NFL since joining the Chargers in 2016, being named to two consecutive Pro Bowls and All-Pro teams during his time with the Bolts.

Pro Football Focus shared that since 2016, Hayward has been the most valuable cornerback in the NFL based on PFF WAR (wins above replacement).

  • 1st: Casey Hayward, 3.04 PFF WAR
  • 2nd: Jalen Ramsey, 3.02 PFF WAR
  • 3rd: Stephon Gilmore. 2.31 PFF WAR

After being released by the Chargers due to spending time on the injured reserve, he was scooped by their division rival, signing with the Raiders on a cheap one-year deal.

After the play he put on last season, it’s safe to say the Raiders got their money’s worth.

Last season, Hayward started all 18 of the Raiders’ games, piling up 47 combined tackles, 10 passes defended, a safety, and an interception.

Hayward also allowed under 30 yards in 15 of his 18 games played while allowing just two touchdowns all season with the Raiders.

With A.J. Terrell asserting himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season, the pairing of him with proven veteran Casey Hayward could prove to be a great return on investment for the Atlanta Falcons.

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As Atlanta aims to field one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL, it’s definitely possible that the two defensive backs could guide the Falcons’ group of corners to a surprising season.