FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Sometimes a player's stat line will tell the whole story. Sometimes it won't. And it's OK that both of these things are true simultaneously. When it comes to the way the Falcons defense is playing, particularly when you break down individual performances, you can juxtapose these two ideas using two of the biggest names on this Falcons defense: Grady Jarrett and A.J. Terrell.
Both have meant a lot to any success this Atlanta defense has had, but they've done so in different ways. Terrell's coverage numbers are off the charts. Meanwhile, Jarrett is barely showing up in a stat sheet. That doesn't mean one is playing better than the other. It's actually the opposite. They're both playing very well in Dean Pees' scheme, whether they show up on a stat sheet or not.
Starting with Terrell, the Falcons 2020 first round draft pick has been targeted just 20 times this season. He's given up nine catches for a total of 56 yards. If you're wondering why you may not hear Terrell's name called on Sunday very often, it's actually a simple answer: There's very little action on his side of the field with quarterbacks actively choosing to look the other way. Terrell has a 77.4 PFF coverage grade. That's good enough to land him in the top 15 of cornerbacks in the league.
And his pass breakups are seen sprinkled through his stat line. There were the two big ones he had against Tampa Bay in Week 2. They're both there, right under the PBU column. His stats may not be massive, but they tell a very compelling story as to why he's doing so well right now, especially by cornerback standards.
But then, there's Jarrett. The defensive lineman has just one sack on the year so far, but coaches have been adamant that the effects Jarrett has on the success of this defense is immaculate. Arthur Smith said point blank this week that just because Jarrett doesn't have a high sack number, doesn't mean he's not affecting the quarterback. He absolutely is.
During his weekly press conference, Pees spent a bit of time breaking down the holes created in player narratives if you simply look at the postgame stat book instead of taking a look at the defense plays as a whole. He used Foye Oluokun's interception as an example.
"The truth of it is that (Jarrett) caused that interception, but it doesn't show that in the stats," Pees said. "It shows that Foye got the interception."
Pees went as far as to say this happens constantly with Jarrett. It wasn't just putting the pressure on Tua Tagovailoa in that moment. There are many moments Pees can point to to show Jarrett's importance in this defense, and how he's affecting the outcome of certain plays. He's a playmaker no matter his sack count.
"One of the guys who I'm telling you affects everything," Pees said, "is 97."
And you know what? Even if he's not getting the stats that get him more recognization, Jarrett is content with that if he's making plays happen that wouldn't if he didn't force them.
"At the end of the day, if the stats are accounted for or not, I know how I affect the game," Jarrett said. "That's what's important to me. Obviously, as a competitor you want the stats and stuff to go up, but for me the biggest thing is watching that film and seeing how you affect the game."