Falcons' Massaquoi in a rush to improve

December, 13, 2013
12/13/13
7:00
AM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- With all the talk surrounding Atlanta Falcons rookies such as cornerback Desmond Trufant and linebacker Paul Worrilow, it's easy to forget Jonathan Massaquoi is a young player on the rise, too.

The second-year defensive end from Troy had his best game as a pro Sunday when he recorded two sacks and two tackles for loss against the Green Bay Packers.

Two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora, another Troy product, certainly noticed.

"He's coming along, man," Umenyiora said of his fellow defensive lineman. "He's another good, young player. He's got a great work ethic. He wants to keep getting better. That's pretty much all you can ask for in a young player."

In critiquing his own play, Massaquoi was far from satisfied.

"My expectations are high," he said. "Just like everybody, you never want to be good; you want to be great. And if you're great, you want to be elite. So, I've got a long way to go.

"I'm going to keep fighting. I'm going to keep making plays. I'm going to keep doing my job."

The Falcons' pass rush has been inconsistent throughout the season, with Umenyiora leading the team with 6.5 sacks. Massaquoi stands fifth on the team with three sacks. But, as a group, the Falcons are tied for 25th in the league with 27 sacks. By comparison, league leader Buffalo has 44.

As the Falcons prepare for their final three games of 2013, the coaching staff is sure to take a closer look at its pass-rushers. Fans already have started to lobby for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in the NFL draft, based on the Falcons currently holding the No. 3 pick.

Even if Clowney becomes a Falcon, the organization has to consider which combination of defensive linemen will work best moving forward. Massaquoi, who is capable of rushing from right or left end, should have a role for years to come.

"Well, I think he's adept and doing it from both sides," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Massaquoi. "I think a lot of guys that become really elite pass-rushers have the ability to rush off of both sides. And they like to look for those matchups that are favorable for them."

Massaquoi has a three-step plan for making himself more favorable in the coaches' eyes: no mental errors, executing the game plan and having fun on the field.

"Those three things, if you combine them together week in and week out, you should be able to go out there and have success," he said.

"As far as the future goes, I'll finish up strong this season. And it's up to the coaches whether they want to continue to allow me to play a bigger role on the Atlanta Falcons defense."

Another game similar to Sunday's would go a long way toward solidifying Massaquoi's standing.

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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