At Noon eastern time the Vikings will begin the 2019 regular season at home in their quest to earn the first Super Bowl in franchise history. They’ll start off against the Falcons, a team they have won three straight against.
The Falcons have had a busy offseason, mostly because they’ve extended a few guys like linebacker Deion Jones, (obvious) wideout Julio Jones, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Julio’s contract, of course, gets the most attention, but a guy like Jarrett is particularly interesting because he’ll garner the attention of Vikings center Garrett Bradbury, making his debut as the starter.
In 2018 Jarrett put up 52 tackles (27 solo), six sacks, eight tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, and three forced fumbles. Not the flashiest of stats but these undermine how much of an impact the fifth-year starter has on the Falcons pass rush. He should be the primary concern for the Vikings offensive line in their efforts to protect Kirk Cousins.
To illustrate just why Jarrett is public enemy #1, let’s breakdown some of his film.
We start off this breakdown with this sack on Alex Smith in last year’s matchup against the Redskins. Believe it or not, Jarrett is the defender highlighted by the yellow circle.
Jarrett is working against left guard Shawn Lauvao as he uses a large amount of power…
…to force his way through the guard like he was getting through a turnstile. Let’s examine how this looks in full motion.
Jarrett’s bull rush on this snap is extremely powerful, highlighted by his quick, violent footwork against Lauvao. He gets the sack in a prime example of what he can do against the Vikings interior offensive line.
Next let’s take a look one of two sacks Jarrett had against the Giants in 2018. Don’t get too excited, but he is once again highlighted by a yellow circle.
This time Jarrett is up against Will Hernandez, who had a fine rookie season as a left guard. But this particular play gave the edge to Jarrett.
The interior pass rusher executes a swim move on Hernandez and exploits a wide open lane to Eli Manning.
It’s worth noting that it’s not just that Jarrett executes a swim move, but how stunningly quick his execution is. He fools Hernandez into thinking he’s going up the B-gap when he actually shoots up the A-gap with how agile his footwork is. It all ends up in a sack that looked too easy.
On a side note, Mike Zimmer is one of the more notable coaches in the league that believes in running the football to make for a “more balanced offensive attack” in an era that has come to embrace analytical data in favor of passing. I mention this because Jarrett is the exact kind of of player that Zimmer gets annoyed by. As a pass rusher he brings plenty of quality, and he’s equally as impressive as a run stopper.
Line up against the B-gap on this snap against the Bengals…
…Jarrett rushes up the middle unaccounted for…
…resulting in the takedown of now Miami Dolphin Mark Walton for a loss.
The acceleration Jarrett gets off his first step is yet another reason why he’s so dangerous. His first step is so quick that he breaks through the crease in the B-gap (not sure why you’d have a center pull to guard a pass rusher of his quickness) and creates the TFL with ease. Despite having less TFLs in 2018 (8) than in 2017 (15), Jarrett still presents plenty of problems for the style of offense Zimmer likes to run.
Grady Jarrett is the best and most valuable pass rusher on this Falcons defense. He presents a violent combination of bull rushing, an impressive first step, and a deadly swim move that have established him as one of the more criminally underrated interior pass rushers in the league. A player of his caliber is exactly why you draft a guy like Garrett Bradbury to strengthen the interior offensive line.
The pass protection will still need a lot of help from right guard Josh Kline (who I thought struggled in his final season with the Titans) and left guard Pat Elflein, who has not lived up to standards at center after an impressive rookie season. That’s why Bradbury’s selection in the first round of this draft was huge, and Minnesota will need all the help they can get going up against a gauntlet defensive tackle in Jarrett.