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Why Grady Jarrett's Role Could Dictate Atlanta Falcons Defensive Front


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There's two things one must know about Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett. First, he's going to set the tone in practice as a standard for the younger players to follow. Second, he's open to learning a new trick or two in the trenches. 

With defensive coordinator Dean Pees switching the Falcons' from from a four-man  to a three-man rush, Jarrett is no longer playing in a one-gap system. He's working the edge as a five technique to add more pressure toward the outside. 

 

Is it challenging? Sure, but Jarrett loves being pushed to the limit if it means his team will improve. 

“I’ll definitely line up in some different spots, wherever they see fit,” Jarrett said Wednesday after practice. “The good thing about it is that I’m going to be prepared for wherever they put me. Whether I’m at zero (nose tackle), five (defensive end) or if I’m out there in the wide nine (outside linebacker). We’re going to get it done.”

Jarrett is going to be the X-factor for Pees' defense moving forward. Atlanta is trying to trade veteran linebacker Deion Jones before its Week 1 matchup against New Orleans, meaning Jarrett will be the only player from the NFC Championship roster still on staff.

Pees likes having a player with Jarrett's leadership and work ethic. Younger players will often follow the vets in terms of what's expected. Should Jarrett being going full speed at practice, others will follow. 

 

That's a necessity for Pees moving forward after Atlanta finished dead last in sacks and 26th in total defense. 

"We're changing the culture around this daggum place and it's not going to be mediocre," Pees said. "It's not going to be average. It's not going to be in the bottom half of the league like it's been 15 out of the last 20 years. [I'm] sick of that crap." 

Jarrett, who signed a new extension that will keep him in Atlanta through 2025, also isn't looking for more regression. He's been a part of successful defensive fronts in the past that pushed the Falcons into the postseason. During his breakout campaign in 2017, Atlanta finished eighth in scoring defense, ninth in total yards and ninth against the run

Jarett recorded 55 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss and four sacks. As for Atlanta, it 10-6 and made the postseason as a wild card team. According to the 29-year-old, duplicating that success isn't rocket science. 

 

"You have to make sure everyone's on their details from the front end to the back end, with everyone giving great effort," Jarrett said. "I feel like we have the pieces to do what we need to do, but we have to execute. We're not going to be able to execute on game day if we're not doing it on the practice field."

Expect Jarrett to play all across the defensive line. When Pees is looking for more of a pass rush, he'll shift inside. When playing more in coverage, expect him to hit the edge head-on. 

Veterans often aren't opposed to maneuvering around the field like a chess piece. So long as the Falcons find a way to win, Jarrett will do whatever is asked of him in practice and on Sundays. 

"I’ve spent most of my time at the three technique (defensive tackle) to a shade,” Jarrett said. “But these past couple of years have been good to me, and I’ve been able to grow comfortable playing outside

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