Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett on the offseason program and his anti- bullying fundraiser at Top Golf in Midtown on Wednesday. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Falcons’ Grady Jarrett to keep playing with chip on shoulder

He’ll worry about a new contract later 

It’s not on his to-do list.

Jarrett is next in line, with left tackle Jake Matthews, for a contract extension. However, he remains humble and will carry on about his business. 

“I’m just going to let that take care of itself,” Jarrett said after Wednesday’s OTA session on his contract. “I’m just going to focus on being the best player that I can be. But at the end of the day, that will work itself out.”

The Falcons, under general manager Thomas Dimitroff, have signed most players they want to return in October before they reach the free agency market in March.

Jarrett, 25, who is set to enter his fourth year, has improved steadily after being a fifth-round selection in 2015.

“I’m hoping for a big year, so I’ve just been grinding really hard,” Jarrett said. 

The 6-foot, 305 pound Jarrett is disruptive with his combination of speed and power. He led the defensive line with 794 defensive snaps (75.3 percent) and played 76 snaps on special teams (18 percent). 

“For him, every year it’s been a growth year,” defensive line coach Bryant Young said. “If he continues to and he wants it in that way, continues to get better every year, it’s really good for him, our group and our team.”

The Falcons are counting on that continued growth from Jarrett. 

“He understands it in that way,” Young said. “He’s a guy that plays with a chip on his shoulder. He goes out there and competes. He plays with energy on the highest level. I really love what he brings to our team.”

Jarrett, who inexplicably slid in the draft after a stellar career at Clemson, has been proving people wrong for a long time. 

“Since I’ve been playing, I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder,” Jarrett said. “(That’s) never changed no matter the circumstance. Without a doubt, I’m always trying to go out there, day-in and day-out, and do my best and let the rest take care of itself.”

The Falcons critique their players and give them detailed and specific things to work on in the offseason. Jarrett has a different approach. 

“This may sound like a generic answer, but everything,” Jarrett said when asked what he was working on. “My run game. Pass game has improved every year that I’ve been in the league. I just try to improve and make that climb and see how far I can take it.”

Jarrett is thriving in the weight room this offseason. 

“Pound for pound, he’s one of our strongest guys,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “He has really put in work in that way. That’s one of the areas in this offseason that we really try to push on.”

Quinn said Jarrett is normally near the top of the list every week when the players have group strength and conditioning competitions.

“His explosiveness is what sets him apart as an interior lineman where he can really beat you to the punch,” Quinn said. “I think that part has gotten a little stronger.”

When Jarrett was a rookie, former Falcons defensive linemen Jonathan Babineaux and Tyson Jackson showed him the ropes. He also learned some things not to do from former defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hagemen, who was eventually released. 

“Watching a guy like Babineaux work day-in and day-out, Tyson was a pro about his business and that definitely stuck with me as my career goes on,” Jarrett said. “I’m forever grateful for the ones who went before me.”

Now, the Falcons are counting on Jarrett to help pass some knowledge along to rookie Deadrin Senat, who was selected in the third round of this year’s draft. 

“He’s become real comfortable as his own man and leading in his own way,” Quinn said. “He’s often seen behind the scenes quietly taking a guy and showing him the ropes.”

That guy is usually Senat. If the Falcons can get him ready, he’ll help replace Dontari Poe along with free-agent signee Terrell McClain.   

“Life is a little different,” Jarrett admitted. “I kind of know what’s going on and I know what to expect. I feel like I’ve always had a part of a leadership role, but it continued to increase. I try to encourage the younger guys and be a mentor to them. 

“I’m working with Deadrin really closely, trying to get him ready for the year. ... As far as me just growing as my career grows, I’m just trying to make other people better as well.”

Senat is coming along. 

“He’s a tough and competitive guy,” Jarrett said. “I’m excited to see him grow as a player. I know it’s a process as it was for me.”

Jarrett believes things will work out along the defensive line, which was hit hard by the lose of Poe and defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Poe signed with the Panthers and Clayborn with the Patriots in free agency as the Falcons had to spend their money on quarterback Matt Ryan’s $150-million contract extension.

“It’s always going to be difficult when you lose a guy the caliber of Poe,” Jarrett said. “But we have a solid group of guys. I know we have enough to get the job done.”

Jarrett, who starred in the Super Bowl LI with three sacks, believes the Falcons are still an elite team. 

“I feel like we can be as good as we want to be,” Jarrett said. “I don’t feel like we are missing a piece on the (defensive) line, on the defense or either side of the ball. As good as we want to be, it’s going to take us putting in the work, and trying to maximize our ability. We don’t have an excuse. We are not missing any holes and we are excited.”

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