When a player consistently stands out on film yet doesn’t receive the plaudits he deserves, the player becomes underrated. He may not get the recognition due to not having gaudy statistics or first-round draft pedigree. His team could be struggling, which leads to limited visibility across the league. Eventually, though, a player’s greatness will garner attention following years of tremendous performances.
They start to get labeled underrated by numerous announcers, analysts, players, and fans. To be called underrated regularly means you aren’t underrated anymore; you are being rated as an outstanding player. That’s where Grady Jarrett stands entering his seventh season in the NFL.
The two-time Pro Bowler has received an endless amount of praise after another stellar year. From his relentless motor to blistering get-off, Jarrett leaevs interior offensive linemen frequently searching for answers when matched up against him. There are moments where running backs are literally receiving a handoff as Jarrett closes in to annihilate them. There are moments where quarterbacks have to immediately escape the pocket to throw the ball away to avoid a sack.
Jarrett has fully established himself as a premier interior tackle. While it’s difficult to put any defensive lineman on Aaron Donald’s level, there are players in the trenches who believe Jarrett is up there. Za’Darius Smith and Trent Brown stated Jarrett’s name belongs right next to Donald amongst defensive tackles. That’s how much respect he commands across the league.
Although the big plays weren’t quite there compared to past seasons, Jarrett was his usual ferocious self. Producing a career-high 21 quarterback hits and eight tackles for a loss to go along with four sacks reminds you that Jarrett remained and remains a problem for opposing offenses. Not being as productive as he was in 2018 and 2019 doesn’t take away from another season where he was essentially a one-man wrecking crew. The supporting cast around him was worse than it had ever been following Dante Fowler’s inability to generate much pressure and Takk McKinley crashing out of Atlanta. That forced Jarrett to line up in different positions, including off the edge. As someone who is no-nonsense as it gets and knows the responsibility of handling multiple positions, the former fifth-round pick embraced filling in off the edge.
According to Pro Football Focus, Jarrett has averaged over 50 pressures over the last three seasons. It showcases how much chaos he creates despite never producing a double-digit sack season. Whether it’s a former first-round pick struggling to find his niche or an undrafted player looking to make the most of an unexpected opportunity, Jarrett hasn’t allowed an unsettled defensive group around him derail his ability to perform at a high level. His timing off the line of scrimmage is impeccable. The power he generates on bull rushes can blow away interior linemen. Splitting double teams with his explosiveness quickly put opposing offenses in a difficult scenario on second or third and long. No matter the situation, Jarrett makes his presence felt in several ways over the course of a game.
One of Jarrett’s finest games last season came against Carolina, which was fitting considering it’s one of the four games the Falcons won last season. It’s a divisional matchup where the tremendous defensive tackle usually shines. Facing a two-point deficit in the third quarter, the Panthers were set on going for it on fourth and one. They have lined up in 22 personnel with their power back Mike Davis in the backfield, running power to the right with John Miller and Taylor Moton double-teaming Jarrett on the combo block. With a lead block coming in from the full back, Carolina seemed fully confident on gaining the necessary yard. Jarrett made them pay for that decision.
Being able to obtain leverage and moving linemen downfield is what Jarrett has been doing since entering the league in 2015. He uses his compact, powerful frame to disrupt running games. What has been added to his game is the ability to take on double teams. To get under offensive linemen’s pad level allows him to utilize his impressive strength and vicious hands. By getting low on Miller and Moton, he doesn’t allow them to get any real movement at the point of attack. Miller can’t get any push and loses his balance in the process. Moton doesn’t have any effect on Jarrett, which prevents him from picking up Foye Oluokun. The Falcons’ two best defensive players in 2020 combine to deliver one of the best moments of the season.
Incredible lower body strength is another notable trait when watching Jarrett go to battle in the trenches. His ability to get low and maintain a consistent push forces offensive linemen to lose their balance. On this play, his effort leads to an offensive lineman and running back falling to the ground without reaching the first down marker. Davis runs straight into the back of Moton, leading to him crashing to the ground in a devastating fashion similar to Mark Sanchez’s infamous butt fumble. Jarrett and Oluokun made some exceptional plays together last season. This was their shining joint effort on a national stage against a division rival to help secure a much-needed road victory.
Jarrett is the prototypical three-tech defensive lineman who is powerful and versatile enough to remain productive in different roles. That’s an exciting prospect for new defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who knows that Jarrett is the heart-and-soul of the defense. There is a genuine buzz about what Pees can do for a defense in dire need of a new philosophy. Jarrett is very enthusiastic about working with the highly-regarded defensive coach, where he’ll be utilized in multiple looks.
After being perennially underrated for years, Jarrett is firmly one of the top defensive tackles in the league. Don’t expect that to change for the always hard-working, forever humble beast that continues to terrorize opposing offensive lines.