We made it to July, which means we’re less than a month away from the start of training camp for the Falcons. There’s still time to go until we get there, which means our thoughts drift naturally to the season ahead.
Let’s lean into and keep considering what might be ahead for this team. Once again, I’m asking something about individual excellence, and in this case it’s a straightforward question that may not have a straightforward answer: Who will lead the team in interceptions?
This is a pretty wide open competition, as there is not an obvious favorite and there has been a different team leader in each of the past five seasons. Last year, Foye Oluokun and A.J. Terrell tied for the team lead with three, with Blidi Wreh-Wilson (2020, 3 picks), Desmond Trufant (2019, 4 interceptions), Damontae Kazee (2018, 7 picks), and Deion Jones (2017, 3 interceptions) rounding the past five years. Atlanta’s likely to have new full-time starters not just at one cornerback spot and both safety spots, but also at inside linebacker, where Oluokun is gone and Jones may soon be.
Richie Grant was a ballhawk in college and deserves consideration here, as he finished his senior season with 3 interceptions and had 6 in his sophomore campaign. Ditto Jaylinn Hawkins, who was just one pick off the team lead despite starting just four games. Hell, Casey Hayward once had 11 interceptions in a two-season stretch from 2016 to 2017, so it’s always within the realm of possibility that he’ll come up with a few big plays this year. You can’t count out Deion Jones if he’s still on the team, either, and I love Mykal Walker’s big play ability if he steps into a major role this year.
For all of that, my selection is still going to be A.J. Terrell. After managing just one interception in his rookie season and dropping a potentially game-icing one against the Chiefs in 2020, Terrell clearly worked on his hands and did a nice job taking advantage of opportunities to make plays on the ball in 2021. Given how hard he works to better his game and the fact that he still had a couple of chances to pull down interceptions he just missed last year, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect 4 or 5 interceptions from him this year in what I’m expecting to be a stellar third season, and I think it’s likely that’s good enough to lead the game. If it’s not him, I’d personally bet on Grant.
How about you?