Hageman Looking To Make A Jump In 2015

John Bazemore/ Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.– Like most second year players, defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman is trying to improve off his first year playing the NFL. However in his first season, the numbers did look pretty good for the Minnesota product.

Hageman finished the 2014 season with 17 total tackles (13 solo), one sack, and three blocked kicks on special teams. The tricky thing is now the Falcons are being led by a completely different coaching staff, with Mike Smith out and Dan Quinn in as the head coach.

We’ve heard it all offseason that Quinn brings an exciting, fast-paced, and highly competitive attitude to the field. He also brings the coaching chops of being the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks and leading one of the best defenses in recent NFL history.

Hageman showed the ability to get up field last year and make plays in the backfield. His new head coach Dan Quinn thinks he knows why Hageman is effective off the line.

“It’s that initial quickness that he has for such a big guy,” Quinn said. “We tried him at the ‘three’ technique in our base package. I think he has enough size to play the defensive end. It’s the length and the speed that he has. How fast can he come off the ball? He can be really disruptive doing that. Both in our base package and our nickel package I’ve been quite impressed by him with the start that he’s had so far.”

The reason that Hageman could be impressing Quinn so much, is the fact that he is comfortable with the scheme. In fact, this 4-3 scheme is something he knows pretty well.

“It’s definitely something that I played in college,” Hageman said. “It’s definitely a lot faster and I’m definitely catching up. Way before OTA’s I was comfortable with myself and the system we’re in.”

Hageman finished his 46 game career at Minnesota with 91 tackles (57 solo), 24 for a loss, and 10 sacks. Falcons fans/coaches no doubt want him to tap into those numbers for the 2015 season and beyond.

The Falcons second year defensive lineman says he already notices a difference in how his position group is being used under Quinn, as opposed to the previous regime.

“Instead of playing on the line like we did last year, we’re definitely getting off the ball,” Hageman said. “That’s just one thing I’m good at. Shooting straight and just disrupting in the backfield.”

Hageman also comes into camp a little lighter weight wise this season. He says that he’s been able to shed 10 pounds over the offseason. He likes the weight he’s at, but would still like to lose more weight before the start of training camp later this summer. Hageman is currently 310 pounds.

The emphasis for the weight loss could come from the troubles that Hageman faced last season from a conditioning perspective. We all got to see this chronicled on HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks.’

He says he’s learned from the adjustment to the NFL and put those lessons to use to get ready for this season.

“It’s a job and so therefore I have to keep my body right,” Hageman said. “Obviously I’m trying to excel at a higher level and it’s not going to going to work 320-25 (pounds). Just for myself, I have a son. So, long-term I just want to be healthy.”

During his rookie season, Hageman was seen a lot on the HBO reality show around his position coach Bryan Cox. The former NFL’er himself was seen as his hugest fan, but also his harshest critic.

Cox was one of the few holdovers from the Smith regime and that could be huge for Hageman as he tries to make the jump from his rookie season to year two. He says the chemistry was definitely built with Cox since he’s gotten to Atlanta.

It is hard to tell just how much Hageman has improved, because the Falcons won’t put on pads until training camp. We do know right now, that he is in a system he believes in and he’s in better shape than he was a year ago.

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