How does Grady Jarrett fit into the Atlanta Falcons’ defense?

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Oct 11, 2014; Clemson, SC, USA; Clemson Tigers defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (50) celebrates with teammate linebacker Stephone Anthony (42) after scoring a touchdown by recovering a fumble in the end zone during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrett’s fit for the Falcons

As luck would have it, the Falcons appear to be moving away from the 3-4 to Quinn’s favorite scheme, the 4-3 under. If you don’t have a good grasp on the 4-3 under, which is essentially an amalgamation of the 4-3 and 3-4, take a look at my introductory piece here.

Jarrett is at his best when he is able to focus on attacking and penetrating, which is exactly what he’ll be asked to do in this scheme.

The 4-3 under is an offset gap control scheme (a.k.a. a 1-gap scheme) that focuses on simplifying assignments for players.

It gives each front-seven defender one gap to cover, which eliminates the read-and-react and decision making required in a 2-gap scheme. This makes the 4-3 under a very aggressive, simple scheme that allows defenders to play fast and attack.

Here is a simple graphic illustrating the responsibilities of each player in the 4-3 under:

In the 4-3 under, the NT (as well as the 3-tech DT, or “under tackle”) are only responsible for one gap. This nullifies Jarrett’s primary weakness, making him an ideal fit at either position in Quinn’s scheme. Jarrett is at his best when he is able to focus on attacking and penetrating, which is exactly what he’ll be asked to do in this scheme.

But where would Jarrett fit best on a Falcons defensive line that has some talented players already? Let’s take a quick look at who Atlanta currently has on the roster:

3-tech DT: Jonathan Babineaux, Ra’Shede Hageman, Cliff Matthews
NT: Paul Soliai, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Joey Mbu
5-tech DE: Tyson Jackson, Adrian Clayborn, Malliciah Goodman

While these certainly aren’t guaranteed positions for these players (Ra’Shede Hageman, for instance, is listed as a DE and could kick out to 5-tech DE at times), it gives us an idea of where the Falcons will be looking to add more depth.

Nose tackle, in particular, is painfully thin behind Paul Soliai. Soliai also doesn’t provide much as a pass rusher. 3-tech DT is very thin if Hageman does indeed play 5-tech DE often.

It appears Jarrett would be an ideal fit at both the NT or 3-tech DT positions in the Falcons 4-3 under defense. He’s a much better pass rusher than Soliai and could sub in for him on third down and obvious passing situations. Jarrett could also play either base package or nickel package 3-tech DT, particularly if Hageman spends significant time at DE.

Here are some potential schemes we could see with Jarrett involved. The first is a base package (early down) set-up with Jarrett in for Babineaux.

The second is a nickel package (3rd down/passing situation) set-up with Jarrett in for Soliai.

Regardless of where the team plans to use him, Jarrett should carve out a role in the Falcons’ defensive line rotation early in his career. Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett could provide an excellent exterior/interior pass rushing duo in the years to come. Here’s hoping that he becomes the next Aaron Donald/Geno Atkins and sets the world on fire.

Wouldn’t that be nice, Falcons fans?

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