Falcons trying to figure out Hageman

Ra’Shede Hageman has been like a complex crossword puzzle for the Falcons, who are trying to figure out how to develop the team’s second-round pick — taken 37th overall — in the 2014 draft.

He’s played sparingly through 10 games for a coaching staff that has a track record of quickly assimilating rookies into the lineup, dating to quarterback Matt Ryan, left tackle Sam Baker, linebacker Curtis Lofton and nickel back Chevis Jackson in 2008.

The Falcons hope that Hageman, who blocked a field-goal attempt to save Sunday’s victory, will take off down the stretch of the season, as they are set to face the Cleveland Browns at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons’ coaches have done a good job of getting second-round picks ready to play.

In 2009, William Moore was injured. The team didn’t have a second-round pick in 2010 or 2011. In 2010, third-round pick Corey Peters averaged 34.7 snaps per game.

Center/guard Peter Konz was the second round pick in 2012 and he played 42.7 snaps per game.

Cornerback Robert Alford, the team’s second-round pick in 2013, averaged 36.5 snaps per game his rookie season.

Hageman is playing 14.5 snaps per game. He has nine tackles, one tackle for loss and two blocked field goals.

At 6-foot-6, 318 pounds, Hageman has massive size and the potential to dominate the line of scrimmage. But consistency has been an issue. It’s been a problem that followed him from his playing days at Minnesota to the NFL.

In college, he dominated against Nebraska, but then was invisible against Northwestern, according longtime NFL personnel man Gil Brandt.

Hageman shined for the Falcons’ coaching staff at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. He dominated the one-on-one drills for the entire week, but he has not been able to play at a consistently high level in the pros.

In part because of his physical gifts, Hageman has his supporters.

“They need to start getting him some snaps on defense,” SiriusXM NFL radio analyst Alex Marvez said. “I think at this point, I know that you’re fighting for jobs (and the Falcons’ record is 4-6) but you know what, get this young man on the field. Get him ready to play for 2015. He’s going to have to go through some growing pains no matter what. I’d rather have him take his lumps now as long as he’s not costing your team.”

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan places a high value on practice performance

“As they prove that they can play consistently, the more consistent they play and the more consistent they practice, the more you get them (on the field),” Nolan said. “You don’t want to disrespect or disregard what happens in practice.”

Hageman is not going to develop watching from the sidelines, but Nolan doesn’t believe you can just hand him 25 snaps a game.

“At the expense of who? The team?,” Nolan said. “We’re trying to win the ballgame before we get somebody plays. Sometimes a lot of people lose sight of that. The objective is to win.

“In the process, if you can develop guys and all of that because that’s what you hope to do, then that’s what you do.”

Hageman did beat a double-team against the Panthers and played strong during his limited time on the field.

“If you do it consistently, then you’re known as a real good player,” Nolan said. “If you do it inconsistently, then you’re known as a guy who’s trying to get consistent to be a good player.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith also is closely watching Hageman’s development.

“Again, a lot of the play time can be predicated on what the offense is doing based on their personnel groupings,” Smith said. “I think that he’s continued to develop. He’s’ a guy that’s in the rotation, and obviously I thought he made some plays in the ball game (against Carolina). I think he’s earning more opportunities to play on defensive snaps.”

Smith wants to see Hageman perform better in practice, too.

“Ra’Shede continues to develop not only on game day, but on the practice field,” Smith said. “I think that’s really where a young player starts to get his confidence is out there on the practice field while he’s training. When he’s out there where he gets a comfort level, where it slows down for him, and if it slows down in practice for him then it’s going to slow down in the game for him as well.”

Hageman clearly is trying to find his way in the NFL.

“Every day, I’m just trying to get better,” Hageman said. “It’s a hustle. It’s a grind. I’m staying positive. I’m getting better with the things I need to work on. Every day, I’m just trying to perform my best in practice and obviously it will follow into games.”

Nolan said that Hageman’s showing against Carolina was his best of the season.

“I did OK,” Hageman said. “I felt there were some minor things that I felt I had to adjust to. Overall, making the game-winning field goal block was cool. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do my job.”

The Falcons are hoping the blocked kick will spur Hageman to fulfill his potential.

“It was a win-or-lose situation, and I kind of gave it my all,” Hageman said. “I shot my hands up, and I got a hand on it.”