When you project a player to take a leap forward in his development, you are playing with fire. That player needs to be motivated, correctly utilized by the coaching staff, given opportunities and frankly a little bit lucky to go from the player he once was to the kind of player Falcons fans universally celebrate. Such is the case with Ra'Shede Hageman, a man I firmly believe is going to break out in 2015.
I'm taking that leap with Hageman for a number of reasons—he is focused and ferocious, after all—but at the core I simply believe in him. This is a man with prodigious athletic ability and physical talent, an obvious drive to succeed and the kind of environment he needs to thrive in. We all saw him arrive this spring in The Best Shape Of His Life, for all the good that often does, but more importantly he and the entire team are talking in a way that makes it clear Hageman's going to get his shot.
Hageman on personal expectations: "I'm just hungry. I feel like I'm too big to be average."— Andrew Hirsh (@andrewhirsh) June 2, 2015
Quotes are quotes, but I was thrilled to read that. Hageman clearly is working his ass off to get to where he wants to be, and the opportunity is there. Tyson Jackson is going to play some defensive end and defensive tackle if he makes the team, Paul Soliai doesn't really infringe on Hageman's role, Grady Jarrett won't necessarily be a full-time player in his first season and Jonathan Babineaux will be productive and useful as always, but will also be turning 34 years old during the season. There's nothing stopping Hageman from seizing a greatly increased role and wreaking havoc in said role, so long as he earns it.
There's very little reason to doubt that a motivated Hageman starting on even footing with his competition will take a job, and certainly his ability to play defensive end in Dan Quinn's front ensures he'll carve out a role. The size of the role is the only question, and it's not much of a question.
Expect Hageman to become the next great Falcon in 2015, and for that arrival to make a massive difference for a defense that is still very much in flux. He may not have the counting stats that guarantee a Pro Bowl berth, but if Hageman can be as impactful as I think he can be, he'll be a fixture for this team for many years to come.
What are your expectations for Hageman?