Stock up: Grady Jarrett among Falcons worthy of praise in Week 1 loss

Grady_Stock-Up

Editor’s Note: Following each Falcons game, we will identify three (or more) players whose stocks are on the rise after noteworthy performances.

I’m not sure unveiling a series titled “stock up” after a game in which the Falcons had issues in all three phases of the game during their 28-12 season-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings is the wisest move, but here we are.

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With three turnovers on offense, a blocked punt and a 172-yard rushing performance by the Vikings, there weren’t too many bright spots for Atlanta. The Falcons are a talented team that didn’t play to its capabilities in a hostile environment against a good team, and that’s where they stand after one meaningful football game.

There are some Falcons whose performances deserve high praise, however. We’ll start with one of the best penetrating interior defensive linemen in the NFL.

Grady Jarrett

Stats: 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss, 1 forced fumble

After signing a contract extension with the Falcons this offseason, Jarrett told 92.2 The Game, “More than anything now, I’m motivated.” He certainly looked motivated in his first regular season game after earning that deal. Jarrett earned the only sack of the day for Atlanta, knocking the ball out of Kirk Cousins’ hand, and he came close to a couple more. As is often the case, Jarrett’s stat line doesn’t tell the full story, but he put forth a winning effort on Sunday.

Austin Hooper

Stats: 9 targets, 9 catches, 77 yards, 8.6-yard average

Hooper has improved in each of his three NFL seasons, and he got off to a great start in his fourth. Atlanta’s tight end has developed a great rapport with quarterback Matt Ryan, and it showed on Sunday. Hooper really came alive in the second half, catching three passes for 27 yards on Atlanta’s opening drive after halftime and another three passes for 32 yards during the Falcons’ first scoring drive.

Kenjon Barner

Stats: 2 kickoff returns for 44 yards, 4 punt returns for 46 yards

The Falcons had a battle for the returner spot all throughout training camp, but it was the veteran Barner who proved the most reliable in that role. While he may not have been viewed as the most exciting choice among those vying for the job, he had a really good debut for Atlanta. Barner made several smart decisions, didn’t turn the ball over and set the Falcons up with pretty good field position on a couple of returns.

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