If you answer anyone other than Aaron Donald when asked who is the best defensive tackle in football, well, you’d be wrong. Fortunately for the Detroit Lions, they won’t have to see Donald this year, outside of an unforeseen postseason meeting.
But this Sunday in Atlanta, they’ll have to deal with arguably the next-best thing in Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett.
The Lions are bracing for Pro Bowler Grady Jarrett during this weekend’s game. (Photo: Atlanta Falcons)
Jarrett, a fifth-round pick in 2015, is a mold-breaker, much like Donald and eight-time Pro Bowler Geno Atkins. Undervalued because he is undersized, standing just six-foot tall, Jarrett tumbled into the third day of his draft and has been making 31 teams regret that decision ever since.
“Grady Jarrett is unbelievable,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “I think he’s just really come along and has just exploded out on the scene. It’s funny, I was just going through all the plays last night of what he does on the field and how impactful he is in all the situations, he has a tremendous mix of power, explosion, speed and just great instincts.
“When you look at the tape, you look at — you start with the run game — you run to him, he’s going to make guys miss, he’s going to get in the backfield and make a play. If you run away from him, especially some of the movement stuff they do defensively, he’s just in the backfield and you can’t cut him off. It’s an unbelievable quick twitch off the ball. He’s a problem there, and then you get into the passing game, and he’s just in the middle of the pocket.”
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Patricia hits the nail square on its head with Jarrett; he’s anything but one-dimensional. Some defensive tackles are primarily run-stoppers — think Damon Harrison — while others are subpar against the run, but can be a disruptive force rushing the passer. That could be said about Ndamukong Suh early in his career. But Jarrett, he’s exceptional at both skills.
ESPN has two key metrics to measure the success of defensive linemen: Pass-rush win rate and run-stop win rate. Among defensive tackles, Jarrett tops the leaderboard rushing the passer and checks in seventh stopping the run. Only Pittsburgh’s Steven Tuitt, another elite interior defender, cracks the top-10 on both lists.
“He’s a very good player, very elusive guy,” Lions rookie guard Jonah Jackson said about Jarrett. “He’ll make sure he doesn’t get blocked.
“He’ll make sure he causes havoc.”