Grady Jarrett likens Calais Campbell’s impact to Dwight Freeney

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The Falcons have a refreshingly new-looking defense. Terry Fontenot has bolstered every level, adding Jessie Bates III, Jeff Okudah, and Mike Hughes to the secondary, as well as Kaden Elliss to the front seven. However, the most impressive job has to be the defensive front as David Onyemata and Calais Campbell join Grady Jarrett.

The influx of talent has sparked optimism in Atlanta’s stalwart defensive lineman that a turnaround will be swift. “I envision this team being a really strong defensive team,” Jarrett, via the team’s official website. “At the core, I think we’re going to be really strong upfront on the offense and defensive line, so I think that’s really going to drive us forward.”

There’s no doubt what the new regime wants its identity to be. Arthur Smith’s offense wants to run the football and dominate opponents in that capacity. Everything else bleeds off the rushing attack. Defensively, Fontenot and Smith have been adamant about getting the defensive front right. Championships are won in the trenches.

Onyemata and Jarrett will form a menacing tandem for opposing interior offensive lines. Moreover, there will be healthy rotation behind the starters with Eddie Goldman returning, Ta’Quon Graham coming off a breakout campaign, and Calais Campbell’s acquisition.

Campbell is the most proven commodity of the bunch and will likely head to the Hall of Fame when he decides to hang it up, but his impact will go far beyond pressuring opposing quarterbacks. And Grady Jarrett knows exactly what he’ll provide.

“To have a guy like David Onyemata come in is going to be great,” Jarrett said. “To have a leader like Calais Campbell come in is going to be crazy. It’s almost like reminiscing of when we had Dwight Freeney come in my second year. When you get a legend of the game to come in, because Calais is that, it just raises the bar for everybody.”

Dwight Freeney joined the Falcons prior to the 2016 Super Bowl run when he was coming off an eight-sack season in Arizona. Despite only logging three sacks with Atlanta, the Hall of Famer provided some much-needed leadership to an otherwise inexperienced defense. He solidified the rotation and had some big moments.

Calais Campbell’s impact will be similar. His stats won’t tell the entire story because his leadership will resonate throughout the organization, not just his position group. There are plenty of young players that stand to benefit from his expertise. It’s almost unbelievable he chose Atlanta over what many would consider more attractive destinations, but Campbell is very clearly buying into what Arthur Smith and Terry Fontenot are selling and plans to do his part.

Photographer: Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

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