Atlanta Falcons: Believe it or not, A.J. Terrell is better than Trevon Diggs

Aug 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell (24) on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

The Atlanta Falcons have not exactly been killing it on the defensive side of the ball this year, but despite that fact, they have a rising star at the cornerback position.

Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Cowboys have been a surprising team, their offense has been dominant and the same can be said for their defense, which is ironically led by former Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn.

One of the biggest storylines early in the 2021 NFL season is Trevon Diggs interception total. We are five weeks into the season and he already has picked off six passes, which is insane. However, just because a defensive back intercepts numerous passes, does not mean they are the best in the league.

Casual fans will never believe it, but the Falcons CB is better than the league leader in interceptions

If you do not follow the NFL super close, you may be wondering why there is a direct connection between the Falcons’ top corner and the Cowboys’ top corner. The answer is that they are both in their second season in the NFL, and many fans may critique Atlanta for taking A.J. Terrell over Trevon Diggs—but they should not.

The Falcons took A.J. Terrell in the first round, 14th overall in the 2020 NFL draft, while the Cowboys took Trevon Diggs in the second round, 51st overall in the same draft. 

As previously mentioned, Diggs is dominating the statistics for defensive backs in the early parts of the season. The fact that he already has six interceptions is insane, there is no way around that fact.

However, this does not mean he is clearly the best corner in the league because he is far from it.

The great corners usually do not have dominant interception totals because of the fact that if they are that good, then they are not going to be targeted as much. Despite A.J. Terrell being on a team that does not have a good pass rush or secondary, he has been incredible—yes, even better than Diggs.

The advanced stats and measurements show that this is clearly the case.

According to Pro Football Focus, A.J. Terrell has been targeted 16 times, allowed 6 catches, 37.5% of passes to be completed, a total of 42 yards allowed (28 of which came on one play), and 7 yards per receptions. All of this coming in four games as he missed one due to a concussion.

Now when you compare that to Trevon Diggs number, the argument becomes clear.

Diggs has been targeted 39 times, allowed 19 catches, 48.7% completion, total of 335 yards with a long of 42 yards, and an average of 17.6 yards per reception. Both corners have yet to allow a single touchdown.

So putting this in simple terms, A.J. Terrell has been targeted 23 less times, allowed 13 fewer catches, allowed 11.1% less passes to be completed, 293 less yards, his longest catch allowed was 14 less yards, and a stunning 10.6 fewer yards per reception.

On Pro Football Focus, Terrell grades better than Diggs in overall defense and run defense, while also having the same coverage grade.

There is no other way to put it, A.J. Terrell is better than Trevon Diggs.

Some may question the level of competition that each of these corners have faced, but ironically the Cowboys and Falcons have played similar schedules so far this year. The two teams have both played the Giants, Buccaneers, and Eagles up to this point in the year, meaning they have basically played the same receivers.

Obviously, the one issue with that is the fact that Terrell missed the Giants game with a concussion, so realistically they have played two similar opponents. However, as the season progresses the two teams schedules are pretty similar, and they even play each other in the middle of November.

The only thing holding Terrell back is the fact that he plays on a significantly worse defense—which you could argue, makes it that much more impressive—and he does not have the interception total.

There is also this Twitter thread that further proves the point:

So according to those tweets, A.J. has yet to allow a catch during his 41 snaps in man coverage, which makes him one of two players in the entire NFL who can say that, the other one being Vikings cornerback, Patrick Peterson.

In his 100 snaps playing zone coverage, he has allowed six catches on 13 targets, which means he has the ninth best reception percentage allowed in zone coverage among any corners.

Finally, in the last tweet, it mentions that Casey Hayward of the Raiders and Bryce Callahan of the Broncos are the only two corners who have allowed a lower percentage of catches thrown their way.

Darius Slay of the Eagles and Terrell are tied for allowing the lowest yards per catch in the NFL among cornerbacks, with that being seven yards per catch.

The casual fan will look at these two corners and believe there is a significant difference in talent and play, but when you look deeper into it, it is obvious that A.J. Terrell is a better corner than Trevon Diggs.

The majority of fans will never know or recognize it, and even most knowledgable fans will not believe it, but it is a fact. A.J. Terrell deserves national attention in the media for his stellar play.

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