Each NFL season, every team has a player that bears a little added attention. So which performer could turn the corner for the Atlanta Falcons in ’17?

Welcome to yet another 32-team series from End Zone Score. In recent months, we took the time to look at each club’s best offseason addition. We even dabbled into some pertinent and historical numbers.

Every NFL season features players that come into their own after a slow start to their careers. It’s tough to tell when each performer’s coming-put party will take place. Some are immediate successes. Others take longer due to numerous circumstances, but they prove to be worth the wait. Here we will try and pinpoint a player from each team in the league that we feel is on the verge of putting it altogether.

We’ve already gone through our share of teams. You can play catch-up right here. Next-to-last in this series are the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons.

DT Grady Jarrett

Pass and rush are obviously four-letter words. When it comes to the pass rush of the Atlanta Falcons in recent seasons, well…

Yes, outside linebacker Vic Beasley led the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016. That was quite the jump for the ’15 first-round pick from the University of Clemson. But the Falcons still only finished with 34 quarterback traps. It was the club’s highest total since 2008 (34) but was only tied for 16th in the league in ‘16. Yes, it was much-improved from the NFL-low total of 19 sacks during his rookie season. But the fact remains that this club hasn’t totaled at least 40 sacks in one campaign since 2004.

In 2016, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett had three of those 34 sacks. He finished the regular season with 48 tackles and one fumble recovery. But in Atlanta’s 34-28 overtime loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the two-year pro totaled three sacks of quarterback Tom Brady. So was this just a fluke performance from the 6’1”, 288-pound from Clemson? Or just a sign of things to come?

With the return of Beasley also comes the 2017 first-round addition of defensive end Takkarist McKinley (UCLA). The Atlanta Falcons also signed two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Dontari Poe (Kansas City Chiefs). That could means you could see a lot more heat generated by the inside of the line. And surging Grady Jarrett will be at the center of that pressure.

Russell S. Baxter is the NFL lead columnist for EndZoneScore.com and the founder of ProFootballGuru.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.

2 Responses

  1. Thomas C Chatmon

    I’m a looooong time Falcons fan, and I am encouraged by Jarrett’s SB. However, I believe it premature, and unrealistic to predict that one dominant performance (albeit against the best team in the NFL) equates to a perennial sackmaster. Hopefully you’re on to something…we’ll soon see!

    #Go Birds!

    • Russell S. Baxter
      Russell S. Baxter

      At what stage of this piece did I use the words “perennial sackmaster?” He’s an up-and-coming player, Thomas…

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