For many years, one of the weakest parts of the Falcons roster has been the pass rush, which includes both the edge and interior units. Atlanta overhauled the edge, and Grady Jarrett has been a mainstay along Atlanta’s interior, but he hasn’t had a running mate in years.
That could change this season. The coaching staff is high on the former fifth-round pick Ta’Quon Graham, who could experience a breakout campaign in 2022.
Even though he had minimal impact in his first season, the former Texas Longhorn improved dramatically as the year progressed. He played in 13 games and logged over 300 defensive snaps, totaling 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and five hurries. Terry Fontenot selected him because of his length and positional flexibility, as we saw when Dean Pees moved Graham up and down the defensive front.
Pees didn’t play the rookie much at the beginning of the year, but his snaps ramped up in the latter weeks of the regular season. Graham played at least 20 snaps in the final eight weeks while eclipsing 30 in the final four. His length showed up multiple times, and the staff, clearly impressed with his development, gave him a more prominent role in the last quarter of the season.
And Graham is doing nothing but improving this offseason, including against the Lions in the Falcons’ preseason opener, even garnering recognition from Dean Pees. “Based on this last game with Detroit, he really showed up,” Pees said. “He was very noticeable, making plays, so yeah, I’d say he made a big jump.” And we aren’t the only ones high on the Texas product. Pro Football Focus believes Graham has played himself into a large role this season.
We put “DL” here instead of DT or EDGE because Graham is capable of bridging that gap. He earned his 90.7 overall grade this preseason while playing four snaps aligned in the A-gap, nine snaps in the B-gap, six snaps over the tackle and four snaps out on the edge. His versatility at 6-foot-4, 294 pounds will be huge for a Falcons defensive line that has been searching for any sort of playmaking ability. Graham did just that this preseason and figures to not be coming off the field much.
And it’s because of plays like this:
Drive might have ended poorly, but #95 Ta'Quon Graham stood out every rep he had during Detroit's first team offense imo. pic.twitter.com/ESxHpbkqKm
— Stephen H (@HarrahAtl) August 16, 2022
“I think (Graham) has had a good camp,” Arthur Smith said. I want to see that, obviously, on Sundays, but everything he’s done so far, he looks like he’s made a significant leap, and hopefully he shows up on the games.”
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire