“Aaron Donald-like”: Falcons stalwart garnering much deserved praise

NFL: SEP 17 Packers at Falcons

The Falcons didn’t make many changes to the roster this offseason, but the few they made should pay massive dividends, none more than Kirk Cousins.

The $180 million free agent addition is a steep upgrade from what Atlanta dealt with last year, a team that was constantly hampered by poor quarterback play. Cousins isn’t some Super Bowl-winning signal caller, but compared to what the Falcons had in Desmond Ridder, he might as well be.

Defensively, the Falcons made little additions, most of which came through the draft. The headliners are Ruke Orhorhoro, Brandon Dorlus, and Bralen Trice, all of whom are expected to have a role along the defensive front this year.

Raheem Morris and Jimmy Lake are seemingly sticking with the status quo on that side of the ball and will heavily lean on the veterans. Jessie Bates and A.J. Terrell will help lead a young, inexperienced secondary, while Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata anchor the line of scrimmage.

The biggest weakness of the Falcons defense hasn’t been a secret. The pass rush has long been a topic of sore conversation, consistently among the worst in the NFL, and once again, Atlanta didn’t do much of anything to improve that area.

It’s going to be a committee approach, spearheaded by the interior duo of Onyemata and Jarrett, the latter of which is garnering some much-deserved praise from national pundits.

Following a compliment by his head coach, Jarrett received some recognition from Kay Adams as the most unheralded defender in the wake of Morris’ comments that the Falcons stalwart has an Aaron Donald-like presence.


This isn’t the first time Raheem Morris has likened Grady Jarrett to Aaron Donald. During the owners meetings in Orlando, Atlanta’s new head coach pointed out that the Falcons’ interior duo could have an impact like Donald in elevating the pass rushers around them.

Aaron Donald is a first-ballot Hall of Famer that will go down as one of the greatest defenders in NFL history. His pro football reference page looks fake. There was never a season in which he didn’t make the Pro Bowl or All-Pro teams. He recorded 20.5 sacks as an interior defender and never recorded fewer than double-digit tackles for loss, the lowest mark coming in 2022 when he logged ten, but he missed seven games due to injury.

Now that we understand what kind of player Aaron Donald is we can move on to the impact he had on his teammates. Last year, Byron Young and Michael Hoecht combined for 14 sacks as edge defenders in Los Angeles.

The Falcons are hoping that Jarrett, along with Onyemata, can provide similar results for Atlanta’s young edge rushers. If two of Arnold Ebiketie, Zach Harrison, and Bralen Trice record 14 sacks combined this season, that would be a roaring success.

As far as Jarrett and Onyemata, the pair combined for four sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 20 hits on the quarterback in eight games last year. Over a full season, if the Falcons can get around 8.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 40 quarterback hits from its interior pass rush, that’s pretty damn good.

Aaron Donald averaged more sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hits, but the point remains, a force along the interior can positively affect the edge rushers. That’s the goal with Grady Jarrett, who is still one of the most underrated players in the NFL.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: