Grady Jarrett is really good. If you’re a bullish homer like I am, you might call him one of the best 15 or so defensive tackles in the NFL, but for nearly everyone else, he’s just one of the better young ones in the game today. The Falcons know they’re lucky to have him, and the fact that he played a ton of snaps and played at a high level last year probably helps to explain why they don’t seem to be in a rush to add to their rotation on the interior.
Make no mistake, Atlanta’s lining up to take a defensive tackle with their first or second round pick to give them a long-term option, but I no longer think Atlanta’s going to expend a lot of time, energy and cash on upgrading defensive tackle beyond that. They’re expecting a healthy Jack Crawford to return and can play Derrick Shelby on the interior if they want to, meaning there’s room for probably one more run stopper and that’s about it.
This is sort of the team’s long-term strategy all across the defensive line, too: Replacing deep rotations with tighter ones dominated by excellent young players who can chew up a ton of snaps. It’s happening at defensive end, where Takkarist McKinley figures to double up on last year’s snaps, and it’ll happen at defensive tackle when the Falcons know they can lean heavily on Jarrett at one spot and let a rookie and Crawford take most of the work at another.
Here’s just another way in which Jarrett was pretty terrific last year, in case all the previous articles about him haven’t convinced you. If the Falcons nail their draft selection, they’re going to be set on the defensive line for years to come. The Falcons do still need depth and talent on the defensive line, but there’s already intriguing talent here to work with.