In a Falcons season that’s gone every which way but right, there has been perhaps one thing never wrong: Grady Jarrett’s going to be there. He’s going to play ball the way he’s supposed to, and there’s just about no chance of him puffing his chest in high moments or freaking out in lows.
You take your three-game losing streak, your three-game winning streak, your five-game losing streak, your injuries here, there and repeat, add dropped passes, dropped interceptions, mind-boggling penalties and incalculable missed opportunities, Jarrett keeps ticking in the middle like a quiet atomic clock that you just know will keep time.
He’s the defensive tackle who punches the clock like a metronome clicks.
“Oh, man, he’s been battling. We were just talking about it,” said defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel, who moments earlier was in conversation about how in Sunday’s game at Green Bay, Jarrett just missed a sack because Desmond Trufant got to Aaron Rodgers first. “He’s been our true leader, a competitor, battling through injuries, doing all the small things.”
Yeah, nothing new to see here.
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» More on Grady Jarrett: From ash to hellfire
Jarrett has missed two-plus games with a bum ankle and knee, yet leads Falcons defensive linemen in tackles (40) and all Falcons in tackles for lost yardage (11) and forced fumbles (two). With four sacks, he’s already tied his career high set last season, even though that’s a secondary part of his job.
Among D-linemen, his 546 defensive snaps trail only those of end Vic Beasley (565), who has played in every game, and if you add Jarrett’s 55 special-teams snaps, he leads the D-line with 601 snaps, even though he was in the cold tub for more than two games.
This does not make the 2015 fifth-round draft choice from Clemson particularly happy. He’s accustomed to winning, dating to his days at Rockdale County High School. The son of former Falcons middle linebacker Jessie Tuggle and his teammates haven’t done that often enough.
Jarrett hasn’t made many mistakes, and his roughing-the-passer penalty in the season opener against Eagles quarterback Nick Foles shouldn’t even be counted, yet Jarrett is on board with coach Dan Quinn’s suggestion that all Falcons (4-9) need to up their games over the final three games against Arizona (3-10), Carolina and Tampa Bay.
“I feel like he’s right that we’re prepping strong, working hard during the week ... when it comes down to the game, we’ve got to execute. When you’re in a position to make plays, you’ve got to make them,” he said.
“That’s everyone on the roster down to myself, so that’s where we can make the biggest jump: being in the right place, but actually making the play when it’s there.”
Jarrett likely will not be mistaken any time soon as the Ricardo Allen of the defensive line because he’s not constantly chattering in games, nor waving teammates into position, but he’s the quarterback of the defensive line.
He just happens to go about it low key.
Jarrett talks. You just don’t seem him talking like you might Matt Ryan on offense, or Allen or Deion Jones on defense. You can usually tell when they’re barking signals and changes at teammates, and even center Alex Mack has a physical component to his communication patterns on game days.
Jarrett? Not so much.
Rookie nose tackle Deadrin Senat would have you know, though, that his line mate operates with a version of Yoda’s Force. He’s subtle in his ways of communication, like a professor versus a teaching assistant.
“He helps everybody. He knows every position. Out there in a game, you may not get a call or get a call late, and he knows what to do. He knows the situation, he runs it through his head,” said Senat, who’s having a nice rookie season with 27 tackles. “He’s a really smart guy. He helps me in lots of ways. He tells me and sometimes he tells me to figure it out.”
There are no outward signs of a sense of humor in Jarrett, the 6-foot, 300-pound bulwark, but that sounds kind of funny.
So, how does he suggest that Senat figure things out?
“When I first got here, he was just telling me everything. It was all processing. I process things a little different; I’ve got to write it down. As he told me on the field, I actually got it,” the rookie said.
“I’ll say, ‘In this personnel, what kind of runs do you expect?’ He’ll say, ‘Figure it out. What do you think? What do you think you’re going to get? You tell me your opinion first, and I’ll tell you if you’re right or wrong.’ He played a lot of nose last year, but I play nose now, so I’ll pick his brain.”
The Jarrett methodology would probably benefit many were they to implement it. As he prepares to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, surely to land at the top of the Falcons’ priority list among players to re-sign, Manuel’s not surprised by what No. 97 does.
“You just look at what he does to put into his body,” Manuel said. “He’s a true professional who has the highest regard from all the players on how he takes care of his body, how he prepares himself mentally and physically.”
Jarrett’s probably not too interested in talking about all of this. He’s not a big talker, period.
He’s a player, and he’s focused on beating the Cardinals.
“We just kind of control and focus on what’s ahead of us,” he said. “... It’s always fun playing in Mercedes, and we definitely want to go out on a good note until we have an opportunity to play in there again.”