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Falcons On The Rise: Jonathan Massaquoi

The third-year defensive end may seize a larger role heading into the 2014 season.

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

In this series, we'll look at incumbent Falcons who may be asked to step into bigger roles in 2014. First up, defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi.

As recently as last summer, Jonathan Massaquoi's future with the team was far from certain. He couldn't crack the defensive end rotation at all in 2013, the Falcons had Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann as starters and Thomas Dimitroff had just dropped two draft picks on Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga. Mass was going to have to step up to earn a major role.

He got that role, but unfortunately it was due to injury. With Kroy Biermann out, Mass was forced to take on a huge number of snaps in his second season as a pro. I don't think I'd say that he made the most of them, but he did enough to open some eyes around Atlanta.

For the 2013 season as a whole, Mass put up four sacks, 46 tackles and a pass deflection while playing in all sixteen games. From an efficiency and pressure standpoint, he was one of the team's better pass rushers. He heads into next year as the early favorite for third defensive end duties, and at minimum he's an intriguing situational pass rusher. That might just be the role he was born to play, and while his snaps may decrease in 2014 for any number of reasons, he'll have a chance to do more with the snaps he's given.

The Falcons need as many useful defensive linemen as possible, and it's not a stretch to suggest that even with Biermann healthy and a draft pick or free agent signing on board, Mass should get plenty of opportunities. With a focus on maximizing his ability, I could see Mass posting six sacks and being one of the team's best pass rushers on a per snap basis.

What kind of role do you see Mass carving out in 2014?