The Falcons defensive line got exposed last Sunday versus the Philadelphia Eagles. The only defensive tackle safe from an impending roster purge this offseason is this week’s Featured Falcon, nose tackle Grady Jarrett.
Last Sunday was a demonstration on how the game of football can be won and lost in the trenches. The Eagles offensive line bullied the Falcons defensive line for 39 minutes as they led the way for a rushing attack that produced a whopping 208 yards.
Atlanta proved Sunday that they don’t have the horses to compete with the very best offensive lines in the league. It should be noted that the Eagles offensive line currently ranks second in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Sunday’s wakeup call should temper the expectations of the team going forward until they remake the defensive line. Fans should expect a complete overhaul of the defensive tackle position in the offseason, save for one, young rising star.
Grady Jarrett has been the lone bright spot on a Falcons front line that has experimented with many different combinations. Jarrett has been a fixture at the 1-tech in the base package and has built quite the reputation terrorizing opposing centers.
His latest victim, Jason Kelce, struggled to contain the second year nose tackle thanks to Jarrett’s first step quickness and powerful compact frame. The only knock on Grady so far is his ability to finish plays, but that will come with more experience.
In the previous installment of the Featured Falcon Friday, we touched briefly on the rebuild of this Falcons defense in the image of the Seahawks. One of the underrated pieces on those Seahawks defenses was the man at the nose of it all—Brandon Mebane.
Like Mebane, Grady Jarrett is on the short side (6-foot-1) for an NFL defensive linemen, which contributed to them both being late round draft picks. But what they lack in size, they make up for with their quickness and refrigerator-like builds.
During the 2015 NFL draft process, one NFC North scout was quoted in saying, “Grady will take you on a ride when he gets into you.”
During the 2015 NFL draft process, one NFC North scout was quoted in saying, “Grady will take you on a ride when he gets into you.” The famous saying “low man wins” especially holds true for guys like Jarrett and Mebane who use their leverage advantage to wreak havoc on opposing offensive lines.
It was that type of praise that had Grady projected by some to be a second round pick. Consequentially, Jarrett hosted a draft party on night two of the draft with nearly 50 family and friends at his childhood home in Conyers, Georgia.
What should have been a joyous occasion in a young man’s life turned into a nightmare, nothing of which pertained to the results of the draft. Shortly after the Falcons selected Jalen Collins 42nd overall — a spot Jarrett believed he was in play for — the guests all began to smell something funny.
Jarrett’s mother Elisha thought she might have left an oven burner on, but that was not the case. One of the partygoers then alerted the crowd of a flash of light coming from upstairs where the younger children were playing.
Grady and Elisha immediately rushed upstairs to tend to the blaze and make sure the kids were all safe. However, not much could be done to contain the flames so the Jarrett’s and their guests were left hopelessly waiting outside for firefighters to arrive on the scene.
While they waited for the house to be rescued, the bad news would continue for Grady Jarrett. His cell phone remained silent, meaning Jarrett would have to wait another day for his name to be called.
He would also have to wait at a different location as his house unfortunately could not be salvaged.
Day three of the 2015 NFL draft provided a roller coaster of emotions for Grady Jarrett and his family. Jarrett, an All-ACC defensive linemen at Clemson, continued to hear his name go unannounced in the fourth round as DTs from Washington State and Delaware State went ahead of him.
When the fifth round commenced, the Vikings were on the clock and a player that had a second round grade by most talent evaluators was still on the board. The Falcons, seeing an opportunity to get a very productive player at such a late stage in the draft, made a trade with the Vikings to move up nine spots to select the hometown kid.
But that wasn’t even the best part of it all.
The Atlanta Falcons had Ring of Honor member Jessie “the Hammer” Tuggle on hand to turn over the podium to the Falcons season ticket holder who would announce the pick. Little did the Hammer know, though, the Falcons would select his very own son.
Tuggle could not contain his excitement after hearing Grady’s name called. As an undrafted linebacker out of Valdosta State, Tuggle knows all too well the torment of not hearing your name called on draft night. He so desperately wanted his son to have that special moment and learning his former team of 14 seasons would be the one to do it made it that much sweeter.
Like his father back in 1987, Grady Jarrett has become a diamond in the rough for the Atlanta Falcons. As a part time player in his rookie season (25.4 percent of all defensive snaps), Jarrett logged 24 tackles, one sack, and four tackles for loss. Pro Football Focus rated him the number one rookie defensive tackle/nose tackle for his efforts.
Year two has seen an uptick in Jarrett’s usage and his numbers have risen as a result. Through the first 10 games, Jarrett has 30 tackles, two sacks, three TFLs, and 10 QB hurries.
A wise man once said it’s not where or when you are drafted, but what you do when you get there that matters. Grady Jarrett is living proof of that, and the second year player intends to be the foundation for which the Falcons to rebuild their defensive line upon for years to come.
Featured Falcon Friday will take its bye week with the team and return in two weeks with another fun and exciting installment. Be on the look out for the next Twitter poll @BloggingDirty to vote for the next #FeaturedFalcon.