Falcons’ Cornell Armstrong has been waiting for his turn

CINCINNATI – It’s been a long football journey for Falcons cornerback Cornell Armstrong.

He was thrust into the left cornerback spot when A.J. Terrell left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter on Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Armstrong was called up from the practice squad on Saturday to help provide depth to the Falcons’ already depleted cornerback group. Instead of providing depth, he found himself lining up across from Bengals wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.

“I’ve been praying for this moment for the last two years,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been cut, released, put back on the team, released again and this team gave me another opportunity. I really don’t look at it like that. (I cherish) every moment and then on to the next.”

Armstrong has been trying to stick in the NFL since the Dolphins selected him in the sixth round (206th overall) of the 2018 NFL draft. Armstrong, who’s 6-foot and 180 pounds, played at Southern Miss.

After playing in 15 games in 2018, Armstrong was waived by the Dolphins and since has been on the fringes of the NFL. He was with Texans for most of 2019 through 2021 as be bounced back and forth from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. He played in 15 games with the Texans before signing with the Falcons.

“First and foremost, I want to give glory to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Armstrong said before answering questions. “The last 24 hours I’ve just been preparing myself for this moment. I wish I would have gave them more or I did more to do my job better.”

After Terrell went out, Armstrong got plenty of action. He finished with eight tackles and had a nice pass breakup on a fourth down.

At halftime, Falcons coach Arthur Smith and several players offered Armstrong words of encouragement.

“Here, we’re just all about family,” Armstrong said. “I got the call. I got pulled up to the 53-man roster. They were just encouraging me and telling me to keep doing what I’m doing. I make plays all week. I just have to keep improving each week. Keep stacking days and knowing that I’ve got it in me. I just want to give the guys more because they believe in me also.”

The Bengals passed for 481 yards and quarterback Joe Burrow finished with a 138.2 passer rating.

“They had a lot of success,” Armstrong said. “We just have to go watch the film. Take the coaching, get better each week and improve. That’s all we can do. That’s in the past. We can’t get that back. We have to keep stacking.”

Starting left cornerback Casey Hayward went on injured reserve last week. Darren Hall was already going to take over at his spot.

Terrell was injured in the San Francisco game and was on the injury report last week. So Armstrong knew he had to stay prepared because cornerback Dee Alford was also out with a hamstring injury.

“I feel like I’d be prepared,” Armstrong said. “I prepared myself even when I didn’t get the call last week. I have to prepare every week like I’m going to be called up. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. I’m going to keep getting better.”

Early in the third quarter, on fourth down-and-1 from Atlanta’s 27, the Bengals went for it.

Armstrong broke up a pass intended for Higgins. It was one of the three stops by the Falcons defense during the game. The defense forced two other punts, but gave up five touchdown drives and one drive where the Bengals took a knee to end of the game.

“I keep thinking about that play, but I keep thinking about all the other plays that I didn’t have good luck on,” Armstrong said. “I’m going to keep watching the film. I’m going to go back. I’m not going to get too high. I’m not going to get too low off that one play. I’m just going to try to get better.

“Yes, I will look at that play. I will look at all of the plays. Every play has something you can do better on.”

The Falcons were not sure how long Terrell could be out.

“We’ll just have to see — imaging (on Monday),” Smith said. “We’ll let the doctors handle it and see where it goes.”

The Falcons tried to help Armstrong.

“We threw a lot of different looks at (Burrow),” Smith said. “He just knows where to go with it. He had time, but we had times we got to him. But even when they were off track on some of the get-back-on-track downs, he hurt us.”

The Falcons knew that man-to-man coverage was not a full-time option.

“He found the soft spots in the zone,” Smith said. “We threw different looks at him through simulated pressures, but they got open, and we didn’t do a good enough job executing.”

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Atlanta Falcons 2022 schedule

Sept. 11: Saints 27, Falcons 26

Sept. 18: Rams 31, Falcons 27

Sept. 25 Falcons 27, Seahawks 23

Oct. 2 Falcons 23, Browns 20

Oct. 9 Buccaneers 21, Falcons 15

Oct. 16 Falcons 28, 49ers 14

Oct. 23 at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Oct. 30 vs. Carolina, 1 p.m.

Nov. 6 vs. Los Angeles Chargers, 1 p.m.

Nov. 10 at Carolina, 8:15 p.m.

Nov. 20 vs. Chicago, 1 p.m.

Nov. 27 at Washington, 1 p.m.

Dec. 4 vs. Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.


Dec. 18 at New Orleans, TBD

Dec. 24 at Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Jan. 1 vs. Arizona, 1 p.m.

Jan. 8 vs. Tampa Bay, TBD