Under construction: Falcons’ 3 key players in 2022

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

FLOWERY BRANCH — Outside of quarterback Marcus Mariota and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, here are three key players who need to turn in big seasons for the Falcons in 2022:

Ta’Quon Graham, defensive end: The Falcons are looking for some interior push on the passing pocket opposite of Jarrett. Graham won the defensive end position over Marlon Davidson.

“I feel a lot more comfortable in Year 2,” Graham said. “I’m seeing things a lot better. Playing off my teammates a lot better in my second year of the defense.”

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Graham, a fifth-round pick (148th overall) from Texas in 2021, played 310 defensive snaps as a rookie. He mostly battled in the trenches and had 15 tackles, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

The Falcons are looking for more productivity from Graham now that he’s a starter.

“I definitely feel like I’ve taken a little bit of a leap,” Graham said.

Lorenzo Carter, outside linebacker: A former Norcross High and Georgia standout, Carter was signed in free agency to help breathe some life into the Falcons’ dormant pass rush.

“We are just trying to assault the pocket,” said Carter, who has 14.5 career sacks and had a career-high five sacks last season with the Giants. He’s played in 49 NFL games and made 33 starts.

“I plan to be aggressive, lead the young guys and show them the right way to do things,” Carter said. “So, when they get their opportunity they can take advantage of them.”

Cordarrelle Patterson, running back: The Falcons must improve their rushing attack and will count on Patterson, a converted wide receiver, to lead the committee.

He had a career-high 153 carries last season, averaged 4.0 yards and scored six touchdowns. Patterson will enter the season without the benefit of a carry in an exhibition game.

“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Patterson said. “I mean, when that switch comes on, it’s on. If Coach needs me for one play or 10 plays. If it’s running the ball or catching the ball or returning it, I’m his guy.”

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