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How Clark Phillips is approaching sophomore season, potential role in 2024

It's uncertain who will start at cornerback with A.J. Terrell, but Clark Phillips III could be an option. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — As organized team activities continue this offseason, so does the search for the Falcons' second starting cornerback.

Clark Phillips III could be that answer.

After all, the defensive back started the final five games of 2023 alongside A.J. Terrell. Though, heading into his second-year campaign, Phillips is approaching it like anyone else: one day at a time.

"Get better every single day," Phillips said. "Put your best foot forward, learn the scheme, learn the defense and then try to make plays out there."

At this point in OTAs, teams are allowed to run 11-on-11, but the practices are still non-padded with no live contact. That creates a hurdle for assessing defensive players whose whole job is to knock opponents down. Even still, the Falcons like what they've seen so far out of Phillips.

"Really excited about Clark. He has had elite movement put on tape," head coach Raheem Morris said before OTA practice last Tuesday. "This is a hard camp for defensive players. 'Stay up, don't hit him, stay off the ground, don't cause confrontation,' but he's done a really nice job."

Still, there's a long way to go before roster decisions are made leading up to the start of the season in September. In the meantime, the coaching staff will look at every option for this specific secondary role. In the Falcons' first full-team offseason practice open to media, seventh-year cornerback Mike Hughes got the starting reps opposite Terrell.

The Falcons didn't draft a cornerback this year, but Atlanta added six options to the position group this offseason. The Falcons used free agency to pick up depth with veterans like Kevin King and Antonio Hamilton. In total, Atlanta has 11 cornerbacks on the current 90-man roster.

So, there are plenty of options, including Phillips.

"We have a lot of guys in that room," Phillips said. "As a younger guy in this league, it's really exciting to be able to learn from so many guys, too."

Phillips played both corner and nickel back in college, like he did in his first NFL season. He started 12 games at right corner and nickel back in his final season at Utah.

Professionally, the cornerback appeared in 11 total games, but Phillips only got special teams snaps until after the halfway point of last season. After he cracked the starting lineup in early December, he held the role until the end.

Under a new coaching staff almost six months since the 2023 conclusion, it's uncertain who will line up with Terrell come Week 1 in 2024, but there's reason to keep an eye on Phillips as the offseason advances.

"I'm really excited," Morris said, "about the young man and the player on what he potentially can do."

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