The Falcons added defensive end Calais Campbell, defensive tackle David Onyemata and linebackers Bud Dupree and Kaden Elliss to provide some muscle up front. The plan is to stop the run and improve the team’s anemic pass rush.
“That’s not a knock on anything, but with me being a young player, I know how long it took me to adjust to the game,” Jarrett said. “To learn. That’s great, everybody is still here, but when you get guys that come in ready to go, and they are working for something, they know how to do it.
“They know how to get the job done. It does take a load off my plate from a leadership standpoint and productivity standpoint. It’s going to make everybody better.”
With Campbell (99 career sacks), Onyemata (23), Dupree (46.5) and Elliss (eight), the Falcons have some new players who know their way to the quarterback.
“It helps me across the whole board if you’re talking about protections, snaps counts and certain run plays that you might see,” Jarrett said. “They’ve got to play honest. I’m super, super excited.”
In addition to the new players, the Falcons are hoping that Ta’Quon Graham can recover from knee surgery. He was having a strong campaign last season before he was injured in the Bears game Nov. 20.
“TQ is about to be on his third year,” Jarrett said. “We’ve got a good group going forward.”
Falcons coach Arthur Smith believes that Jarrett and Onyemata will be a strong interior tandem.
“David’s been a guy that you really feel the connection him and Grady are making,” Smith said. “There’s so much that goes on. There’s so much pre-snap stuff. So, even if you had a guy that was a traditional three (technique) or a traditional nose (tackle), depending on what you want to do up front. People move the tight end so much, you try to change the strengths on you. So, you really (must) able to, on the inside, from tackle to tackle, you got to play it.”
The Falcons’ defensive interior also could receive a boost from Eddie Goldman, who’s coming out of retirement. He’s 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds.
“I’m constantly in communication with Eddie,” Smith said. “So again, everybody is at different points in their career, and the one thing we’re going to be — and you’re going to criticize us for being too conservative, but when a guy hasn’t played in the last two or three years as he’s working himself back into shape, we’re trying to be smart.
“I know that can be subjective, but that’s what we feel comfortable with Eddie and look forward to training camp and getting him out there and letting him compete.”
Also, the Falcons hired Ryan Nielsen, the former co-defensive coordinator of the Saints, to take over at defensive coordinator for Dean Pees.
“He’s definitely fiery and intense, but it’s consistent, day in and day out,” Jarrett said. “It’s with a positive connotion to it. Challenging guys, but at the same time, you don’t want to disappoint him. You don’t want to be messing up.”
Neilson is looking forward to working with Jarrett.
“It’s really good that the success that he’s had, it just shows that hard work pays off,” Nielson said of Jarrett. “He’s been here. He’s been fantastic. Engaged in the meetings, individuals and all of those things. You can just see in the time that we’ve been together a few things that he’s done, man, that’s a good football player.”
Campbell, who’s 6-foot-8 and 300 pounds, is hoping to play about 60% of the defensive snaps. He’ll turn 37 on Sept. 1.
“Calais is unbelievable,” Falcons guard Chris Lindstrom said. “I remember when I first came back from injury my rookie year and we were playing Calais when he was Jacksonville. I was like ‘Ol’ my God, this is the biggest guy that I’ve ever seen.’ When I saw him on tape, it was the same feeling.
“Calais is a great teammate and obviously, his resume speaks for itself on the field.”
Smith likes the mix of new veterans with the young talent that’s also been assembled.
“We’ve got some good guys, young guys that will continue to push, take another step, with TQ Graham, Arnold Ebiketie, DeAngelo Malone, Zo (Lorenzo Carter) – he’s been in the (NFL) but still,” Smith said. “He’s 27 years old, Lorenzo Carter, still a prime age. We’ve got a good mix.”
Neilson can’t wait to get started.
“You’re fired up about getting the pads on and going from there,” Nielson said.
Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.