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Ra'Shede Hageman: Focused, Ferocious

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Last year's second round pick Ra'Shede Hageman has a renewed focus after experiencing a rookie season he called "different".

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Ra'Shede Hageman was a pick that I liked from the very beginning. He had some red flags, including a potential maturity issue, but his athleticism was undeniable. Luckily for the Falcons, he has had the perfect position coach to rein in those issues.

Hageman spoke to the media after practice yesterday and sounded like a guy who is headed in the right direction. His changed physique has drawn praise from fans, and he noted that he has indeed lost some weight. But it's not just about his weight, it's about family and his overall health. "...obviously I'm trying to excel at a higher level and it's not gonna work being at 320, 325," Hageman said. "Just for myself, you know, I have a son, and long term I want to be healthy."

He played at 325?! Wow! Family isn't the only thing that has suggested he has matured over the past year. When asked what he changed to get in shape, he mentioned his son but also a mentality that "this is a job". It is a job, but it's nice to see him grasp that for both his family and his professional career.

Hageman also appreciated that Coach Cox has stuck around, but added that he feels he is coachable. "At the end of the day, I feel like I'm able for any coach to coach me, especially at this technique they've got me in. I've been playing it since college," he noted. "Last year it was a little different, because I had never played a mirror step. I was playing a 3-4 and I had never played that before, but we're back to a 4-3 and I love it."

Perhaps a subtle dig at his previous defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan there. In addition, he was asked what he felt was going to be different this year in the 4-3. His response shouldn't surprise you, given a few things he did last year. "Instead of playing on the line like we did last year, we definitely get off the ball," Hageman said. "That's one thing I'm good at, just shooting straight and disrupting the backfield."

That statement should both come across as an indictment against the way Nolan did things last year versus what he does on field goal block. What is a lineman supposed to do on field goal block? Go forward and disrupt. What did Hageman do surprisingly well last year? Field goal block. Now Quinn is having him act the same way on the defensive line? Ohhhhhh man.

Your thoughts on Hageman's improvement over the winter and projections for how well he'll do this year?