Rookie Hageman shaping up for Falcons

If you based Ra'Shede Hageman's progress on some of the scenes in HBO's "Hard Knocks," you might think the Atlanta Falcons' rookie was on the roster bubble.

In reality, defensive line coach Bryan Cox sees the potential in the second-round pick from Minnesota, which is why Cox continues to ride Hageman about his conditioning and motivation.

Some of the results of Cox's tough love were evident during last Saturday's preseason game against Tennessee. Hageman showed flashes of his unique ability with his first sack and a nice stuff on a run play from his defensive line spot. He played 45 defensive snaps, second on the team among defensive players behind Javier Arenas (46).

"I think he experienced something that he never experienced in terms of the strain on his body," coach Mike Smith said of Hageman. "He had a lot of plays, and plays in the NFL are different than plays in college football. The strain on your body is completely different.

"Like the way that Ra'Shede has come along all through training camp. You see his strength. He's a big, strong man. And he's going to be a guy that's help us in the rotation of our defensive line."

Hageman (6-6, 318) assessed his performance in the 24-17 loss.

"Really, it was the fatigue that got me, man," he said. "But I had to keep on pushing for it. I made a sack for my team and there was a little celebration. But at the end of the day, it's all about winning."

It's been well-documented how frustrated Hageman tends to get with himself. Such was caught on camera during "Hard Knocks" when Hageman pulled his shirt over his head as Cox criticized his play in the film room.

"I've just got to keep on moving forward," Hageman said. "Can't really get mad at the play I don't make. I've obviously got to learn from them. I have to watch and critique the film to get better. But overall, I'm progressing."