Grady Jarrett has been among the most promising young defensive linemen since entering the NFL in 2015, but this season he took another step forward and became a true star player. Jarrett was named to his first Pro Bowl after recording a career-high 7.5 sacks and a team-high 12 tackles for a loss.
Jarrett's play was notable enough for ESPN's Vaughn McClure to choose him as the Falcons player who "leveled up" in 2019.
"The 2015 fifth-round draft pick by the Falcons has been a good player, but he took another step in 2019," McClure writes. "Jarrett joined the league's elite at his position and was named to his first Pro Bowl. He was second on the team with 7.5 sacks while playing on the interior line and had a team-leading 12 tackles for loss (he had six sacks and eight TFLs in 2018). Jarrett's first step is devastating and his motor never stops. That's why the Falcons rewarded him with a four-year, $68 million extension in July 2019."
To see who else across the league leveled up in 2019, click here.
Here are some other articles for Falcons fans to check out today:
Jones and Jarrett included on PFWA teams
It's the second-consecutive season that Jones has been on the PFWA All-NFL Team and the first time Jarrett has been named to the All-NFC Team. Jarrett, who was an honorary captain for Clemson at the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, had a career year in 2019, recording 69 tackles and 7.5 tackles for a loss.
Jones was once again one of the top wide receivers in the NFL, finishing with 1,394 yards and six touchdown receptions.
ESPN: The biggest offseason need for each team
The Atlanta Falcons enter the 2020 offseason in an interesting situation. The team has quality top-tier talent in players like Jones and Jarrett, but they don't currently appear to have much flexibility in the salary cap to bolster other areas of their roster.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff says the Falcons can get creative to generate some space financially, but how they will choose to spend their money is also a cause for intrigue. ESPN's Vaughn McClure believes the Falcons' biggest need this offseason is an upgrade at edge rusher after Atlanta finished tied for 29th in sacks.
"The Falcons need to find one or two players who can consistently get to the quarterback in unison with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett," McClure writes. "They finished tied for 29th in sacks. Vic Beasley Jr., the former No. 8 overall pick, is not the answer and has an expiring contract. We'll see if the Falcons uncover a pass-rusher in free agency or find help via the draft."
To see the biggest offseason needs for other NFL teams, click here.
NFL.com: All-Decade team
Since the Falcons drafted him in 2011, Julio Jones has emerged as one of the most dominant receivers the NFL has ever seen. After yet another season in which the Pro Bowler has broken multiple records, Jones continues to cement his legacy.
Given what he's accomplished in his career, Jones has done more than enough to warrant a spot on some All-Decade teams, and he's the first receiver mentioned on the list NFL.com writer Chris Wesseling put together.
"Nearly seven years ago, recently enshrined Hall of Fame super scout Gil Brandt insisted Jones was a superior player to the more celebrated Calvin Johnson," Wesseling writes. "Just 10 days ago, Jones was directly or indirectly responsible for 20 of Atlanta's 23 offensive points in an upset victory at San Francisco, proving that he remains an All-Pro talent in the late stages of his prime. He reminds me of 1996-97 Hakeem Olajuwon: perhaps no longer dominant enough for the gravitational pull necessary to carry the 1995 Houston Rockets or the 2016 Atlanta Falcons to the title round, but good luck finding a handful better at what he does."
Jones is the only Falcons player to make the list, but Wesseling's All-Decade team provides a fun look at some of the best players in recent memory. To read the whole thing, click here.