Falcons coaching staff high on former fifth-round pick, could be surprise of 2022 season

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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 by signing Lorenzo Carter and drafting Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone, who will join Ade Ogundeji. 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, though. The coaching staff is high on the former fifth-round pick Ta’Quon Graham, and he could be the surprise of 2022.

Graham was selected 148th overall in the 2021 NFL draft. 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. The reason Terry Fontenot selected Graham had to be 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 games, 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.”

Graham’s quickness off the line of scrimmage is the first thing that pops out to me in that thread, and he’s done more of the same against the Jets in the Falcons’ joint practices in New York. The entire coaching staff is recognizing Graham, and it should provide confidence for himself and Falcons fans.

“I think (Graham) has had a good camp,” 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

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