Through Falcons’ tough start, Grady Jarrett remains consistent

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

As his career has unfolded, the attention teams direct Grady Jarrett’s way has intensified.

This season, Jarrett has dealt with double teams and specific scheming from offensive coordinators to account for what he brings in the trenches. Through it all, amid a tough 2-6 start for the Falcons, Jarrett has maintained a steady and consistent presence up front.

A fifth-round selection in the 2015 NFL draft, Jarrett was an overlooked defensive lineman out of Clemson who quickly began to exceed expectations at the professional level. Now, he’s arguably the best and most important defender on the Falcons' roster. Although the Falcons are four games below .500 at the halfway point of the 2020 season, it hasn’t been because of anything that Jarrett has done.

Jarrett has brought the same kind of energy on a weekly basis. While he has 2.5 sacks through the first eight games, Jarrett is tied for second in the NFL with 12 quarterback hits, which trails only the Rams' Aaron Donald (15) at his defensive tackle position. When it comes to all positions, Jarrett is tied for ninth in quarterback hits.

While the Falcons didn’t have a successful first half to their season, Jarrett has put forth the same kind of performances each week. He said this drive of his comes from a mentality he instilled in himself long ago.

“It’s a decision you have to make on a personal level,” Jarrett said. “No matter how good or bad the team’s doing, or how good or bad your body’s feeling, or if things are going right for you and you’re getting the numbers, or if you’re not, you’re going to go out and put your best foot forward and let the rest take care of itself. That’s just how I play the game. It’s how I live my life. I just control the controllables and give my all, and let the rest take care of itself.

"It’s been working for me. I’m a guy who’s not easily satisfied and trying to push myself to get better and demand more of myself.”

During a recent team meeting, Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said he highlighted Jarrett’s production with how he plays both the run and the pass. He pointed out the double-teams and the schematic challenges that opposing offenses have tried to throw at him. Yet Jarrett has shown an ability to win those battles a good amount of time. He also has occupied the blocks to free space for the linebackers.

Regardless, the effort always is there.

If Jarrett isn’t able to burst free as often because of the added attention his presence brings, he’s hopeful he can at least spring someone else to make a play.

And that’s the type of selfless play Morris wanted to highlight to the rest of the team.

“He makes plays in the run game; he makes plays in the pass game,” Morris said. “He makes everything else go. He allows your run-and-hit players to absolutely play around him because he’s causing so much disruption for the quarterback, for the run game, for the pass game, just all over the place. When you get him in the right spots, in the right moments, with the right people, he can absolutely be a game-wrecker. That’s what he’s been for us.

"We’re extremely excited to have Grady. He’s one of the better players in the National Football League.”

Along with the consistent approach he’s brought each week, Jarrett also has been the most consistent presence up front on the defensive line. Defensive linemen Takk McKinley, Charles Harris and Dante Fowler have dealt with various injuries, with McKinley and Harris forced to miss games at different times. Defensive tackles Marlon Davidson and John Cominsky both missed games after being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Davidson was a healthy scratch Thursday against the Carolina Panthers.

Through it all, Jarrett has taken on the extra attention and helped provide a pass rush when possible while helping the Falcons' run game hold opponents to a sixth-best 99.2 rushing yards per game.

“I feel like I’m playing well,” Jarrett said. “Myself, I’m always trying to get better. Getting a lot of quarterback hits is good. Just to stay after the quarterback and the sacks are going to come. It’s not getting discouraged with that number. The tape speaks for itself. It’s the effort I play with, being effective in the pass game and the run game, having to be accounted for. It’s something I want to continue to build off of.

"I’m definitely motivated to have a better second half of the season and increase in every aspect I can and build and continue to get even better.”