FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Mike Smith says he doesn't want his Falcons defense to be predictable or easily labeled.
Second-round draft pick Ra'Shede Hageman is a very big reason Atlanta may no longer rely on four-man fronts in its base defense.
The 6-foot-6, 318-pound Hageman played nose tackle at Minnesota and was drafted as a defensive end. That's a strong signal there will be an increased emphasis on a 3-4 scheme. Players who look like offensive tackles don't often play defensive end in four-man fronts.
Following Friday's first session of the three-day rookie minicamp, Hageman gave an even stronger signal of the changes when he casually said "We play a 3-4."
Whatever the scheme, the Falcons need to improve a pass rush that produced the league's third-fewest sacks last season.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL