The Atlanta Falcons made it a priority to spend their assets on their lackluster defense. They have significantly improved each level but the secondary sticks out as a unit that could shock the league.
The group of A.J. Terrell, Jeff Okudah (when/if healthy), Mike Hughes, Dee Alford, Clark Phillips, Jessie Bates, Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, and now DeMarcco Hellams is loaded with so much potential that they could end the season as the best secondary in the entire NFL.
The Atlanta Falcons have built a secondary with elite potential
When you are a team that is coming off of a long streak of disappointing years you have to build your team around potential. The Atlanta Falcons have done that with the additions of Jeff Okudah, Mike Hughes, Clark Phillips, Jessie Bates. and DeMarcco Hellams to a unit that already had a respectable foundation.
We are here to talk about the potential of this unit, not their track record. By no means is this guaranteeing that they will have the best secondary in the league, but rather I am saying there is a distinct possibility that they could become the cream of the crop.
It all starts with the two leaders of the secondary, A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates. Both of them are elite players at their position.
A.J. truly had one of the best seasons we have ever seen in 2021 and while he had a rough start to 2022, he really turned things on the right before and after his injury.
As for Bates, the production and consistency speaks for itself. He was the leader of a defense that went to the Super Bowl in the 2021 season and contended for one this past season.
Jeff Okudah is another important piece. He isn't currently healthy which is a blow but if he can stay healthy when he returns, then he should be able to show why he was a third-overall pick. Draft experts firmly believed he would be one of the best in the NFL.
Then there is the slot position which has no lack of talent. Mike Hughes is a former first-round pick who wasn't great last year but he was when he was with the Chiefs in 2021. Dee Alford was a huge surprise last season and will continue to get better, while Clark Phillips was a fourth-round steal who has been one of the most impressive players during training camp.
And finally, we have the other three safeties, Richie Grant, Jaylinn Hawkins, and DeMarcco Hellams. Richie Grant should flourish with Jessie Bates, Jaylinn Hawkins has been a solid piece, and DeMarcco Hellams has looked like the steal of the draft.
Needless to say, Ryan Nielsen has a lot of pieces to work with and all of those pieces could fit together and become the best unit in the NFL.