It may be an unconventional route, but the Falcons believe they’ve improved their pass rush in the draft with the addition of Ra’Shede Hageman. While other traditional pass rushers were on the board when the Falcons selected in the second round, Hageman may have represented the best investment.
Hageman is blessed with unique skills for a player as large as he is. He flashed a ton of potential while at Minnesota, grabbing 10 sacks in his four years to go along with 24 tackles for loss and once paired with new defensive line coach Bryan Cox, improvements are expected to continue to come. The push Hageman may be able to contribute from various places along the defensive line should help others arrive at the quarterback .
“Ra’ Shede is a big man, 6’6”, 310 pounds, knocks a lot of balls down, pushes the pocket, he shows athleticism to make people miss,” head coach Mike Smith said of his new D-lineman after the draft. “I believe he has blocked two kicks as well because of his pure length. It is important to have push. I say it all the time, sometime sack numbers are overrated. It is about making the quarterback uncomfortable and making him have to move off of that spot he is so accustomed to standing in when he is throwing the ball whether it is a five step or a seven step drop.”
Smith and Cox saw first-hand what Hageman is able to do while coaching him at the Senior Bowl. Cox was able to interact with Hageman one-on-one and reportedly took a liking to him. Smith was able to observe how Hageman took to Cox’ coaching and was able to envision his development should he become an Atlanta Falcon.
Smith said his time at the Senior Bowl with players like Hageman and third-round pick Dezmen Southward played a major role in selecting them.
“The entire organization had an opportunity to spend time with them, not just standing on the field and watching them but working with them in the meeting rooms, having an opportunity to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner,” Smith said. “I put a lot of stock into watching them interact with their families and their friends at the end of the week when basically everyone is going home and we are the only ones there, it is really nice and a very introspective way to look at the player and how they interact.”