Grady Jarrett is, if not a top 10 defensive tackle in the NFL, at least top 20. He’s underrated against the run and has proven to be a lethal pass rusher at times, most memorably against Tom Brady in a Super Bowl I otherwise have no memory of. The Falcons will trot him out for the majority of their snaps at defensive tackle this year and will benefit from doing so.
So predictably, the big question at the position has little to do with Jarrett, and everything to do with the men the team has surrounded him with. Atlanta’s assembled an intriguing collection of talent at the defensive tackle position, but one or more of the men next to Jarrett are going to have to step up. The question is, who will?
The answer may well vary based on the situation. While Deadrin Senat looks like an extremely promising option, he’s likely to take a backseat to both Terrell McClain and Jack Crawford in his rookie season. McClain will be counted upon on early downs as a run stuffer, given that he has a track record of success in that role. Crawford is a fine player all-around, but he’ll likely be leaned on as a pass rusher far more than McClain and Senat.
My guess is that if anyone emerges from this group in 2018, it will be Crawford. Returning from injury is always difficult when you miss that much time, but Crawford was a quietly capable player with quality athleticism for Dallas, and if healthy he can soak up plenty of snaps and play at a reasonably high level. That leaves McClain as more of a pure run stopper and Senat as an occasional player as he develops, hopefully into a quality starter.
What say you?