FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- "Damn. Y'all don't gotta block nobody else?"
This was what Grady Jarrett said to not one, not two but three Detroit offensive linemen two weeks ago when the Falcons faced the Lions the day after Christmas. Jarrett was getting triple teamed on a designed run play, which is not at all unusual. It's not at all surprising, either.
Truth be told, it was the quintessential moment in the life of Jarrett, not just in 2021 but throughout previous seasons, too.
There isn't an offensive coordinator anywhere that isn't accounting for Jarrett every time they face the Falcons defense on any given Sunday. Jarrett's reputation proceeds him. It has for years. This was Jarrett's reality in 2019.
So, what is the Falcons response to this? Because there has to be one as they are last in the league in sacks. And not just last in the league, either. There's a large margin separating Atlanta (with 17 sacks) from the next closest team, which is Jacksonville with 26. In fact, there are individuals with more sacks than the Falcons defense. TJ Watt leads the league with 21.5 sacks. Robert Quinn is right behind him with 18, one more sack than the entire Falcons defense has in 2021.
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees knows this cannot continue.
"The thing that we've really got to develop in the offseason for next year is the ability to rush the passer," Pees said, "and not always having to pressure to do it."
Finding ways to free up Jarrett was a start. As one of the most notoriously double-teamed individuals in the league, Pees said the Falcons have tried to find ways to get Jarrett in better one-on-one situations. They've put him outside at times, shifting him around the defensive front to get him away from the "big guys inside." But offenses know where No. 97 is at all times. It doesn't matter where Pees is shifting Jarrett to, the opposing offensive lines are accounting for his location and - more likely than not - shifting the protection Jarrett's way.
This is why - in 2022, if Jarrett is still one of the most important parts of this defense - the Falcons have to find help for him. There has to be another individual on that defensive line to take the pressure off of Jarrett. Otherwise, things are going to continue on as is, with opposing offenses neutralizing the threat of Jarrett and not having to account for anyone else across the defensive line driving them back into the pocket.
"The thing you have to be able to do is you have to have somebody to put next to him," Pees said of a remedy.
So, where does this person come from? Is it talent the Falcons can develop? Or is it talent the Falcons have to acquire via the Draft or free agency? The answer, Pees said, is both.
There's something to be said about developing your own talent. That's important.
"The thing is that we just need more," Pees explained. "We need to develop pass rushers. That'll help Jarrett if all of this pressure isn't necessarily put on him."
However, it can't just be about development. The Falcons also need to bring in outside talent, too. And it would be nice to have talent that doesn't need significant time to be developed, especially if Jarrett's time in Atlanta is in its twilight hour.
This is something Pees talked about at length, saying when he turns on film to watch pass rushers across the league, he's seeing talent, and not necessarily talent that can be coached. He used the example of coaching Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis when Pees was in Baltimore.
"With Suggs, you'd be like, 'Oh no. Sack.' He'd go to the side he wasn't supposed to and then he'd sack the quarterback. It wasn't exactly coaching," Pees said. "We didn't make Ray Lewis. We didn't make Terrell Suggs. Those guys made themselves, and I just didn't screw them up."
Maybe more than anything, it's this type of God-given talent that the Falcons need to find in the 2022 offseason. They need game-changing pass rushers, because Jarrett can only do so much on his own. Let's just go out on a limb here and say it would be unfair to expect Jarrett to take on another offensive lineman on top of the three he has to deal with already. Anyone seen someone be quadruple teamed? The Falcons would be on their way to that point with Jarrett if they don't find help for him soon.
At the end of the day, Jarrett is doing his job and doing it well. He's forcing offenses to shift their protection towards him. One would hope that would be enough. But in 2021, it wasn't, because the Falcons couldn't generate pass rush elsewhere. And ultimately, when Jarrett is being double - even triple - teamed, someone else has to step up.
The Falcons need to find that "someone else."
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