Skip to main content

A.J. Terrell, Jessie Bates III set the secondary example: 'Everyone in the rooms is following their lead'

Secondary coach Justin Hood breaks down the leadership styles of cornerback A.J. Terrell and safety Jessie Bates III. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The Atlanta Falcons secondary is blessed with the fact that it has two veteran defensive backs with leadership styles that are different yet effective in their own way.

Jessie Bates III has made it clear he's willing to speak up, taking on the vocal leader responsibility. A.J. Terrell, meanwhile, is more of a lead-by-example type of player.

Teammates essentially get the best of both worlds with Bates and Terrell.

"It's pretty cool," Falcons secondary coach Justin Hood said. "Because you have one at safety and you have one a corner, who can (each) play at a high level. Everyone in the room is following their lead."

Bates is newer to the crew, having only joined the Falcons in 2023 as a free agent. He had spent the previous five seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. So, he's entering 2024 with six years of experience overall under his belt.

Last season, Bates was dominant on the Falcons defense, carrying the team with 132 tackles, six interceptions and the sole pick-six.

"Jessie, in my opinion, is maybe a little bit more outgoing than A.J.," Hood said. "But then, when you watch A.J., you literally see his grind and what he does. Every single day, it's the same approach. Every single day, he shows up at the same time. Whereas Jessie may be a bit more verbal and outgoing."

Terrell has been with the Falcons since he joined the NFL in 2020, starting in all but six games in his four seasons. As a former first-round draft pick, the Falcons picked up Terrell's fifth-year option prior to the 2023 season, making 2024 the final year of his rookie contract.

Last season, Terrell made 45 tackles. His 11 pass breakups tied Bates for the team-high mark.

Atlanta Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell #24 and safety Jessie Bates III #3 during OTAs at Atlanta Falcons Training Facility in Flowery Branch, Georgia, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

Both Bates' and Terrell's resumes speak for themselves.

"In terms of how much," Hood said, "it's every day when you see their growth."

These two are likely locked in as starters at their respective positions – Bates at safety, Terrell at cornerback. There's more so competition for their counterparts.

Richie Grant started for the most part alongside Bates in 2023. DeMarcco Hellams received the nod a few times, though, too.

Clark Phillips III won the starting role opposite of Terrell toward the end of last season. But the Falcons also brought in some options through free agency, like Kevin King and Antonio Hamilton Sr.

No one has truly been named a starter yet.

"It's been fun," Hood said. "We have a bunch of guys in that room that understand exactly where they are in regards to the process. It's encouraging to see because I think you get the guys' best. … I literally have guys in the meeting room right now, and they're working their butts off and then going out and try to execute at a high level throughout OTA practice."

Organized team activities wrap on Thursday. Mandatory minicamp runs Monday through Wednesday. A month-long break then follows before training camp begins in July.

The deadline to be game ready is Sept. 8 — Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

There's nobody better to learn from in the meantime than Bates and Terrell.

"How do I become an All-Pro? How do I execute at a high level on Sunday?" Hood said. "I'm going to follow these guys."

Related Content