Whenever the discussion of underrated players in the NFL is generated, prepare yourself to hear the name Grady Jarrett. Since entering the league as a fifth rounder in the 2015 NFL Draft, Jarrett has had to face his fair share of hurdles. He’s been labeled undersized and being overshadowed and overlooked again and again, at least until recently.
So far, Jarrett has carved himself a nice career in his five seasons in Atlanta. This past season, Jarrett reached career-highs in sacks (7.5), tackles (69), as well as quarterbacks hits (16) en route to his first Pro Bowl and a spot on the All-Pro second team. At this juncture, many consider Jarrett amongst the best in the league as a 3-tech defensive tackle. Jarrett has been getting better by the season and as the ‘Over/Under’ series continues, we will focus on how many sacks that Jarrett may total for the 2020 season.
Jarrett has seen an incline every season in total sacks. Over the last two seasons, Jarrett has totaled 13.5 sacks and when you note that he has 32 total quarterback hits over that same span, you realize that Jarrett could have been armed with a few more sacks.
For the sake of comparison, Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox garnered 14 sacks and 44 quarterback hits last season. So it goes to show that Jarrett belongs in the conversation as one of the league’s best. Let’s set the baseline for Jarrett’s sack total at 6.5.
The case for the over
Jarrett has mastered the concept of consistency as a Falcon. Despite the wavering results from the defense as a whole over the past few seasons, the one constant was the motor of Grady Jarrett and his penchant for making plays. Coming off a career season, it is only right to believe that Jarrett’s ascension will continue. Last season was abysmal in terms of the Falcons getting after the quarterback. Just like the rest of the defense, Jarrett’s play was turned up a notch during the second half of the season.
Even with most of the attention given to Jarrett over the course of the season, Jarrett was still able to exert his refined ability. Coming into the 2020 season, Jarrett will have a few more reinforcements on the line to take some of the pressure off. The selection of Marlon Davidson in the second round of this year’s draft provides an athletic presence that has some similarities to Jarrett. Of course, the big fish this offseason was the free agent signing of edge rusher Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler is also coming off a career year in 2019. With his insertion in a scheme delivered by his former college defensive coordinator, Fowler can potentially provide a dynamic pass rusher off the edge which will of course take some of the load off of Jarrett’s shoulder in that particular phase.
The case for the under
While it appears that the Falcons have upgraded the defense notably around Jarrett. There is still the element of the unknown for the most part. Can Fowler replicate his one breakout season? How reliable is Takk McKinley at this stage of his career? Can the secondary continue to develop with such young talent at the corner spot?
Believe it or not, these questions can have a lingering effect on how productive Jarrett may ultimately be. Granted, he proved last season to be force without favorable results from those around him. But the more Jarrett is honed in on by opposing offenses, the more difficult it can be to match last season or even exceed it. Not to mention, Jarrett was tied for 40th in sacks alongside with DeForest Buckner in 2019. Only four defensive tackles topped that total (Donald, Heyward, Jones, Ioannidis), which means it’s rare for interior defensive linemen to climb that high.
What’s your take?
There is no question that Grady Jarrett is a very skilled defensive lineman that is effective in both the run and pass defensive phase. The 2019 season was a big one for Jarrett and it came on the heels of a well deserved contract extension last July. Give us your take in the comments below on whether or not Jarrett will meet, exceed, or fall short of the baseline.