The weather is perfect for practice in Flowery Branch as the Falcons prepare for their game against the Titans on Sunday in Nashville. Here are photos of the Falcons at work in Week 7.
Heading into the 2015 Draft, Grady Jarrett—an undersized yet skilled D-lineman—was one of the most divisive prospects available. Some scouts considered him a high-potential DT and thought the Clemson graduate could go as high as the second round; conversely, other talent evaluators thought his 6-foot-1 frame would prevent him from gaining consistency at the professional level.
Lots of football minds in team circles fell into the latter category, which granted Atlanta the opportunity to select Jarrett in the fifth round (137th overall). Now he's six games into his Falcons NFL career. And though it's too soon to draw conclusions on his worth, early returns suggest optimists had the right idea.
Jarrett's made an immediate impact in Atlanta and, by many accounts within the organization, is on track to become an important part of the long-term plan. It's not hard to see why: On opening night he turned heads by creating pressure that resulted in a Sam Bradford interception; last week, he made a big stop against Saints RB Khiry Robinson—his third such play in 95 snaps.
Dan Quinn has been pleased with Jarrett's performance so far and hopes to get the rookie more involved moving forward.
"I think it's the quickness that you really see from Grady," the head coach said. "On that tackle for loss (versus New Orleans) you certainly saw his quickness. We certainly need to get him some more turns."
"I just always felt like I had the ability to play at this level," said Jarrett. "That was everybody's concern but mine coming through the draft process and everything. I knew it was going to be tough, but just going hard in training camp and getting the confidence that I could play at this level definitely helped.
Jarrett also mentioned he doesn't use the naysayers as motivation. Instead, he keeps his head down and focuses on his program. Part of that development is a heavy emphasis on off-field work, which is a huge reason why he's been able to adjust to the NFL so fast.
The 22-year-old spends an unusual amount of time breaking down film—both at the team facility and at home on his iPad. Dedicating so much energy to his job away from the gridiron has allowed Jarrett to expedite his learning curve and look like a worthwhile addition off the bat.
"It's an advantage," he said. "In this league everybody's a good player, so you're always trying to find what kind of edge you can."
Those around him have picked up on this habit. Jonathan Babineaux has noticed it in positional meetings. College teammate Vic Beasley, Jr. has seen it first-hand for years. And Quinn, who thinks Jarrett is improving week after week, noted how well the 22-year-old has grasped Atlanta's system.
By absorbing a lot of information in such a short period, Jarrett has given the coaching staff another quality option along the Falcons' overhauled defensive front.
"No. 1, he came in in great shape and he had a really good knowledge of the defense and he just won't back down as a competitor," Quinn said. "All of the things that you want in terms of trying to improve and trying to get better—he does all of that.
"I think every time that he plays, he's just going to keep getting better."