Falcons ready to shuffle secondary if Terrell is out

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons are preparing to face the New York Giants Sunday knowing that top cornerback A.J. Terrell could be out of the lineup.

Terrell suffered a concussion in the team’s 48-25 loss to the Tampa Bay Bucs and head coach Arthur Smith wouldn’t confirm if Terrell in the league’s concussion protocol before the official injury report is due on Wednesday.

“We are still in the investigation process with him,” Smith said Monday. “So, again I can give you more information as the week goes on. I’m not going to comment either way.”

The secondary gave up five touchdown passes and six pass plays of 20-plus yards to Tom Brady and the Bucs. Now, they are planning to shuffle the secondary in preparation for the Giants, who have only thrown 2 TD passes in their 0-2 start.

“We’ll have to adapt,” Smith said. “We’ll have to see where AJ is at. We have guys that can fill in and play multiple roles whether if that is T.J. (Green), Darren Hall (or) Isaiah (Oliver). We’ll know more as we game-plan and see the health of the team getting into Wednesday.”

Green, a former safety who’s converting to cornerback, and Oliver played against Tampa Bay. Hall, a fourth-round pick from San Diego State, has been inactive for the first two games.

Green played 20 defensive snaps (32%) against the Bucs and Oliver, who’s been playing nickel back, played 39 defensive snaps (62%).

The Falcons believe they’ll be fine if Terrell is out.

“We trust the guy who’s behind A.J,” linebacker Deion Jones said. “It (hurts) that he went out like that, but T.J. (Green) still played tough, still flew around, and we appreciate him for that.”

Eliminating the big plays will be key against the Giants.

“Just trusting our coverage,” Jones said. “Playing deep, make them force some check-downs, and getting a good rush.”

Oliver was the starter at right cornerback to open each of the past two seasons after the Falcons moved on from Robert Alford after the 2018 season. However, after Dan Quinn was fired last season, interim coach Raheem Morris moved Oliver to nickel back and he played much better.

“We feel good about most of those guys that are up on game day,” Smith said. “As we evolve in the season, guys have different roles and different packages. The more guys that we have that can play multiple roles, the better we’ll be.”

The Falcons are also bringing along rookie safety Richie Grant and second-year safety Jaylinn Hawkins, who played 16 defensive snaps (25%) against the Bucs.

Grant played 27 special teams snaps (90%).

“Richie is having a big impact on special teams,” Smith said. “We think Richie will have a long and productive career.”

If the Terrell is out, the Falcons’ coverages will be limited.

“The more you can get, the more versatile, it’s a long season,” Smith said. “So the more you can build different personal packages the better off you’ll be, that’s kind of where we are at.”

Against the Bucs, the Falcons were trying to take away the deep ball.

“When we do go out there and people do gain yards, we have to make them kick field goals,” Smith said. “When you are in some of the zone defenses and if you don’t get pressure or they move somebody off the spot underneath, they got a couple (passes) back in there. The ones that kill you are the 40-yard plus touchdowns. You’ve got to live with some of those, but if they get some of those chunks you’ve got to rally to get them off the field.”

The Bow Tie Chronicles

For more content about The Atlanta Falcons

Follow me on Twitter @DOrlandoAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta Falcons News Now

Atlanta Falcons coverage on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Falcons’ 2021 schedule features trip to London, January trip to Buffalo

Atlanta Falcons Schedule

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons at New York Giants, Sept. 26 at 1 p.m.

Washington FT at Falcons, Oct. 3 at 1 p.m.

New York Jets vs. Falcons in London, Oct. 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Here’s the rest of full schedule.