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What Jerry Gray said about A.J. Terrell, Jessie Bates III and Jeff Okudah

Secondary coach Steven Jackson also provides insight on those players, plus rookie Clark Phillips III

Jerry Gray has been around the NFL block more than once. More than a few times if we're being honest.

The esteemed defensive back played nine years in the league and went to four Pro Bowls. Then he joined the coaching ranks in 1995, spending two seasons at SMU before joining the NFL. This will mark the 27th straight season coaching in the league and double as his first with the Falcons. Most of that time has been spent teaching defensive backs, a tradition that will carry on in Atlanta.


So, yeah, the assistant head coach/defense knows what he's talking about when it comes to cover men. So we thought we'd relay all of his player-related insight, plus some good stuff from secondary coach Steven Jackson in one convenient location.

The quotes you see below come from June 2 interviews conducted just before an OTA session at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


Jerry Gray

On Jessie Bates III

"He's a good football player and you look at him and he's made a lot of plays within Cincinnati's defense, a defense that was really good. We need a guy like him. I love his leadership. I love the way he plays on the football field and then you talk to him, and you see the same thing. He's always talking about game planning, doing this, getting guys together, being together. That's critical when you're in the NFL. A lot of guys they don't understand about the extra time that you need to be really good, and you could see it. They were really good on defense in Cincinnati, and we want guys like that on our team."

On the A.J. Terrell/Jeff Okudah pairing

"No. 1 you have two first round draft picks. They were really good in college. The thing is that AJ did a great job in his second year going and being an All-Pro. Now, we have to get Jeff to do the same thing that he did when he was at Ohio State. You have two competitors, and you know they can compete because you wouldn't get drafted in the first round. You have great skills, otherwise you wouldn't get drafted in the first round. Now, we have to blend those two guys together.

"And let those guys see that when you have two great players on opposite sides, now they can't just target one guy. That's what we're trying to do, get them to understand if you've got good football players on this team and learn to compete at a high level now when we go on Sunday the job isn't going to be easier, but you have a better chance of winning that game."


What he wants from Jeff Okudah

"When I meet with Jeff, we sit down and we talk. He comes in just about every morning early. And I always talk to him about what he did at Ohio State because whatever you did there you had 31, 32 teams saying that this is the third best player in the NFL Draft. If I can get that guy to think like that? That's the guy I want. Whatever we need to do that, I want that guy. I am always trying to get that guy back. I want that guy. I don't care about Detroit. No offense to Detroit, but I don't coach him there. I coach him here in Atlanta, but I want the guy that I've seen at Ohio State. And if I can get that guy's mindset back we'll have a great football player here in Atlanta and that's really what we're trying to do."


How Jessie Bates III makes people around him better

"No. 1 he did his job but he also communicated. He's talking. He's doing things that you see on film and you're wondering, 'OK. How did they do that?' because you know that its not always coaching. Trust me, it's a little bit past that. And I understand that. When guys on the football field can take something from the meeting and say, 'Hey guys, Richie, Hawk, we are going to do this. This is how we're going to get it done. Let's go make sure the coaches understand this is how we see it and now we're going to take it to the field.' Then, on Sunday, they do exactly what they say they're going to do. That's when you're going to get more trust and that's when they're going to make more plays, and you're going to get more trust out of coaches. But the thing is that if you say you're going to do something and you don't do it, you get less trust. That's the thing that we're looking for and we want him to bring in here."


Steven Jackson

On Clark Phillips III

He's a football player. He was productive in college and I'm sure he'll be productive here.

[Regarding his ball skills], that's an intangible thing. Every player is different, but those guys are called point of attack players. That's something you can't teach. It's a rare asset. There are a lot of 4.3 guys out there. There are tall guys. But, can you get your hands on the ball? That's not something you can teach. It's instinctive."

On A.J. Terrell

"He's a competitor. It doesn't matter the technique or the situation, he's going to do his job. What he does is go out there and win every single play. He's a competitor to the umpteenth degree."

On Jeff Okudah in 2022 and 2023

"I was in Cincinnati when he was at Ohio State. You saw the talent there. Our job is to bring it out of him. It's there. He's more than willing and more than able to do what's required to reach his potential. The way he competes, the way he works and what he does best is what we're looking for here. That's why he's here."

Join us for a sneak peek at some of our favorite photos of Desmond and Drake from the 2023 Atlanta Falcons creative days.

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