FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. - Defensive lineman Grady Jackson drew laughter from the media last week when he referred to himself as the "key ingredient" to put Atlanta's defense "over the top."
"I like pushing people around and disrupting the other team's offense," Jackson said. "I like wham plays where I can get up field."
Jackson will key Atlanta's run defense today against Tampa Bay at the Georgia Dome just as he did in last week's 20-6 runaway victory over Carolina. He didn't record a tackle in the win but was a big reason the Panthers managed just 65 yards on the ground.
The 345-pound Jackson discouraged the Panthers with one play early. Carolina called a run up the middle, and Jackson disrupted it by knocking the center backward on the snap. The center stumbled into the fullback. The fullback fell into the tight end, who had gone in motion to block on the run.
"We call what he does 'two-fers' - he commands two blockers right in the middle of the line," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "And when one guy takes up two blockers, it lets linebackers go downhill and make plays. And honestly, what you've seen is just the tip of the iceberg of what he can do for us."
Jackson will give more as he works his way into playing shape. The Falcons signed the nine-year pro on August 22. And at his size, conditioning is difficult to maintain on one's own.
He played a handful of snaps in Atlanta's preseason finale and approximately 25 against Carolina. Jackson expects a similar workload versus Tampa Bay but said he should be able to play as many snaps as needed in another week.
"I'll play every play if they want me to once I get my wind in," Jackson said.
Falcons head coach Jim Mora called Jackson a "good get" for the Falcons.
"He might not run the 4.5 (second) 40-yard dash, but we have enough fast guys around him that can chase the ball down," Mora said. "We just want him to play his role and I think the guys understand just how important his role is.
Jackson's play will be instrumental for the Falcons against the Buccaneers. Atlanta's defensive ends, John Abraham and Patrick Kerney, suffered injuries last week, and Abraham is unlikely to play.
Those potential absences will hurt Atlanta's pass rush. If Jackson can stuff the run again and force Tampa Bay into long-yardage situations, it will take the pressure off young defensive ends Chauncey Davis, Paul Carrington and Josh Mallard. Rod Coleman is a strong pass rusher from the defensive tackle spot.
"We'll make it happen no matter who lines up at end," Jackson said. "You've still got me and Rod in the middle, so what's the difference?"
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.