FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Defensive coordinator Dean Pees is set on changing the Falcons defensive culture. As is that wasn't clear from his last press conference, where he used no uncertain terms stating that mediocrity will no longer be tolerated around here.
The Falcons aren't aiming for the middle. They're looking to be ranked among the very best. That will be an undertaking, one Pees is ready to see through after helping the Ravens and Patriots become dominant defenses.
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"We're changing the culture around this daggum place and it's not going to be mediocre," Pees said. "It's not going to be average. It's not going to be in the bottom half of the league like it's been 15 out of the last 20 years. Sick of that crap. We've got to take charge and it's not going to be anybody else to do it but us."
Pees will need a talent infusion (or two) to help usher in a period of sustained dominance. He'll also need player leadership to get this defense right.
There's nobody better than Grady Jarrett to help him do it. The veteran defensive tackle is an excellent player, someone with no problem being a vocal leader who sets the right example.
Jarrett's also invested in this effort, having recently signed a contract extension that’ll keep him here through the 2025 season.
His presence on the field and in the locker room will help get this 2021 defense going while leading it into the future.
Jarrett doesn't think it's rocket science to get a defense going strong.
"That comes from putting in work on the grind every day," Jarrett said in a Wednesday press conference. "You have to make sure everyone's on their details from the front end to the back end, with everyone giving great effort. I feel like we have the pieces to do what we need to do, but we have to execute. We're not going to be able to execute on game day if we're not doing it on the practice field."
Jarrett also has experience playing solid team defense. He was an integral part of a 2017 squad that ranked eighth in scoring defense (and ninth in yards), the only time in the last 20 years the Falcons have been in the top 10 in the only metric that matters.
Jarrett knows from both experience and what Pees preaches how to reach that level. He isn't adding players. He's helping those here play individually as part of a collective.
Getting stronger and working harder as we continue into Week Two of AT&T Training Camp!
"You have to stay on the daily grind," Jarrett said. "When it gets hard, you have to stay focused, locked in. You have to let the coaches coach you and give it everything you've got. You've got to win matchups, with all 11 men doing one job. If we do that, we're going to get it done. Everything else will take care of itself."
Jarrett has done a good job taking care of himself, coming into 2022 in excellent shape and ready to produce at his level.
"This offseason was very different. Exercise is like therapy for me, keeping my mind right," Jarrett said. "I got back in the gym early and spent a lot of time with my sports doctor…training me and pushing me to my max. It was about being disciplined.
"I'm always trying to get better, so I had to take it another step further. It was about putting in the work, even when I'm tired, and stacking the days. I'm still doing that today, because I always feel like I could get better. As I get older, I feel like I'm getting stronger and faster and better. I'm in a really good space right now, and I want to keep it going."