The Falcons are eyeing a defensive turnaround in 2022, after the unit ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every major category last season. To achieve that, the team will lean heavily on its secondary.
The CB room will once again be led by A.J. Terrell. The former first-rounder earned Second-Team All-Pro honors last season, after posting three interceptions and 16 pass deflections. He is set to anchor the Falcons’ backend on the perimeter, where he will likely be joined by Casey Heyward. The veteran signed a two-year deal in free agency to provide Atlanta with a veteran presence in the secondary.
In the slot, however, things are less certain. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that the favorite to start in that spot remains Isaiah Oliver, who has taken on a large workload on the inside since the end of the 2020 season. The past campaign was cut short by a torn ACL, limiting him to four games played and putting his availability at the start of 2022 in question.
Despite the injury, Oliver was given a one-year deal to stay in Atlanta. That could end up paying off for both sides, as the 25-year-old is on track with his recovery. “I essentially get, like, a redo,” he said earlier this month. “I get that year over again, being in the same system with the same team and the same guys.”
Ledbetter names Darren Hall among the “several” players Oliver will be competing with for the starting slot job. The 2021 fourth-rounder registered one start out of the 14 games he played in last season, totalling 27 tackles in a limited defensive role. Overall, the competition for the third CB position will be one to watch during training camp, as the Falcons look to take a much-needed step forward defensively.