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How the Seahawks can attack Grady Jarrett

Seattle Seahawks v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Everyone knows Grady Jarrett is one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL, what this post presupposes is … maybe he’s not? That’s not quite true but I couldn’t resist my desire to madlib one of my favorite lines from The Royal Tenenbaums. Actually, what this post intends to demonstrate is that like a lot of defenders known for their play-making ability, Jarrett may not be so good when he’s not making a play. I want to tackle a lot of ground quickly, using a little bit of tape and a little bit of logic, and so that’s probably it for strained pop culture references.

And that’s the way it is.

Jarrett started his career as a defensive end before transitioning to defensive tackle. The relative interchangeability of under tackles and big ends is a signature of Dan Quinn’s coaching first seen in Seattle circa The Great West Coast Defense Debacle. It may seem irrelevant now but Jarrett didn’t set the world afire at the NFL Combine. I mention his so-so Combine performance because when speaking of a player with a great reputation, I think it’s important to anchor our ships to what we really know. Jarrett was a tweener: slow for an end; small for a tackle.

With that in mind, I relay the following information from Football Outsider’s 2020 Almanac.

2019 Falcons adjusted line yards by direction:

Mid/Guard: 4.4 (15th)

Right Tackle: 4.59 (21st)

Right End: 5.34 (25th)

Which, for the visual learners, might look like this.

That’s the first way you beat Jarrett: You get him to guess wrong. He can’t be seen because he’s engulfed in the double team of Luke Willson (#82) and Germain Ifedi.

Attempting to anticipate the play, Jarrett attacks Ifedi’s outside shoulder. The space he vacates turns into the sizable hole Carson exploits for a five yard run and first down.

The next tactic to use against Jarrett is to knock him reeling with a double team. Double teams are not necessarily reserved for the defense’s most dominant defensive linemen. Double teams are about the play call itself, and which lineman is most susceptible to a double team. Well, Jarrett’s susceptible.

Those are three plays of many. I picked them because the impact of the double team is pretty obvious. He’s not really blown backward but sideways. Atlanta was also very poor at defending runs off left end.

Left End: 4.47 (24th)

The next one’s kind of obvious: run away from him. Jarrett’s a gapping player who takes himself out of plays through pursuing pell-mell seemingly regardless of where the play’s going.

Obviously, on balance, his employers are more than happy with how that works out. But there’s a quiet dignity and under-recognized value to staying home. While the 2020 Seahawks probably do not have a player who can slingshot around the end the way the Penny could, there’s more than one way to attack a player who lives in the backfield.

(On a side note, I couldn’t help but notice Rashaad Penny grabbing at his left knee after this play.)

The final way to attack or at least prevent the attack of Jarrett is to stay out of very bad down and distance. The picture below is of the play in which Jarrett sacks Wilson, but you’ll notice he’s pretty hard to spot. I placed a red circle over his helmet.

It’s wrong to say he doesn’t do anything. Wilson ducks the edge pressure, and we’ve all seen him convert that kind of evasive maneuver into a miraculous escape. Jarrett is very good at breaking free from his blocker. He doesn’t pressure Wilson into the sack. Wilson may have been sacked even if Jarrett weren’t near. But I think the best way to explain what happens is that the edge pressure forced Wilson to draw in the football and attempt, in a self-protective way, to escape pressure. Jarrett made sure he didn’t. If the Seahawks weren’t so far behind the sticks, none of that probably happens.

I’m not trying to “hate” or anything just widen our understanding of his game while putting an optimistic spin on what I perceive to be his weaknesses. Truth is Seahawks fans are gonna be cursing his name pretty often this Sunday. But when we’re not, Jarrett could be a big part of why the Seahawks run wild on the Falcons.