Falcons’ Ade Ogundeji bulked up to chase around QBs

Falcons outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji sprints to the next drill during rookie minicamp in May 2021. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Falcons outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji sprints to the next drill during rookie minicamp in May 2021. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — The Falcons hope Ade Ogundeji can play a bigger role in their plan to improve the pass rush in the 2022 season.

So, the outside linebacker spent the offseason preparing for the bigger role by .... getting bigger.

Ogundeji started 11 games and played in 16 as a rookie in 2021 and admitted that he “lost a lot of weight during the season.” Listed at 6-foot-4 and 268 pounds, Ogundeji says he spent the offseason getting stronger and faster, and his areas of concentration helped him to “put it (back) on, but I put it on the right way.”

Bigger things are expected of Ogundeji in his second season, and he’s ready for the challenge. He’s working with former University of Georgia player Lorenzo Carter at first-team outside linebacker.

He believes the Falcons can improve their pass rush from last season, when they finished last in the NFL with 18 sacks.

“The biggest thing is if we work together ... if one guy is winning (his matchup) it’s hard for that guy to take out the quarterback, especially with a lot of mobile quarterbacks,” Ogundeji said. “But when you’ve got a lot of guys, four guys, coming at him and you collapse the pocket, that’s when you get the quarterback struggling, you get sacks and sack-fumbles. That’s the biggest thing is to get all four guys to the quarterback.”

The defense has been tested in practice by the mobility of quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder.

“Marcus can scramble,” Ogundeji said. “Desmond can scramble. Working together, it helps us get better. Boxing in the quarterback together, NFL teams now, most of the quarterbacks can run now.”

Ogundeji hopes this season’s performance receives a boost from the offseason time spent with Grady Jarrett, the team’s defensive elder statesman who is consistency personified. How was it like spending the summer with the two-time Pro Bowler who has played in all 79 games he has dressed for the last five seasons?

“I’m not going to lie. It’s nonstop with him,” Ogundeji said. “It’s like two hours, not really a lot of rest. You’re just working the whole time. It was good work. It was the best work that I’ve (done) in a while. That’s why he is who he is. You can tell by seeing him work.”

Ogundeji also studied the moves of Romeo Okwara (Lions), Maxx Crosby (Raiders) and Sam Hubbard (Bengals) over the offseason.

“They are players who I feel like I have similar traits,” Ogundeji said. “I try to work the similar moves. They have long arms like me. I tried to focus on those guys and work off of their rushes.”

Ogundeji hopes the offseason work – in the weight room and the film room – will help change the perception of the team’s pass rush created by last season’s NFL-worst sack total.

“We have to change that,” Ogundeji said. “The only thing we can do is show it on the football field.”

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