In an earlier media session, Grady Jarrett responded to The Athletic’s Tori McElhaney’s question about the Falcons rebuilding their defense by saying he thinks the pieces are in place, and that Atlanta isn’t rebuilding.
Asked Grady Jarrett if he thinks this defense is rebuilding, he said no. Said he thinks the pieces are there.
— Tori McElhaney (@tori_mcelhaney) May 20, 2021
I love the confidence in Jarrett, and what kind of leader would he be if he said anything other than that? With that being said, if Dean Pees fields an even average defense, it will be one of his most impressive seasons as a defensive coordinator. The Falcons have question marks at every level, with competition for starters at half of the positions.
The off-ball linebackers are the only strength of this defense, but there are foundational pieces scattered. Jarrett, AJ Terell, Richie Grant, Deion Jones, and Foye Oluokun should all be considered a part of the long-term plan. Other than that, though, there are some real concerns.
I believe the starting defensive line will be Dante Fowler, Grady Jarrett, Steven Means, and Barkevious Mingo. Two of which are rotational players at best and one — Fowler — that is coming off the worst season of his career. The second level of the defense is set in stone with Jones and Oluokun, who will be important in this new-look Falcons defense. Then in the secondary, things are as questionable as the defensive front.
AJ Terrell showed he has the fight in him to be a team’s go-to cornerback, even if he had lapses in play as a rookie. Very rarely does a rookie corner come in from day one and make minimal mistakes. Outside of him, the Falcons have an unproven free-agent addition in Fabian Moreau, who performed admirably in limited snaps on the boundary in Washington but struggled in the slot. Competing with him will be Isaiah Oliver, who has proven to be much more effective in the slot than on the boundary, and Kendall Sheffield, who has shown little to no improvement since entering the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if rookie Darren Hall is the third boundary corner on the depth chart this year.
Safety isn’t as unproven as corner, but the position is one injury away from being a major concern. I believe Duron Harmon will be the most impactful free-agent acquisition this year, and Richie Grant will start next to him. Erik Harris provides value as a big nickel safety but will be counted on for his intangibles more than his on-the-field abilities.
All in all, the Falcons defense will be lucky to be average this year, but what else is Grady Jarrett to say?
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