FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - The Atlanta Falcons are trying to make good on their promise to get tougher on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
One day after using the No. 6 overall pick on Texas A&M; offensive tackle Jake Matthews, the Falcons chose Minnesota defensive end Ra’Shede Hageman in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday night.
Matthews hopes to help reverse those trends.
“I feel real confident that I can do that,” Matthews said when introduced at team headquarters. “I feel real comfortable on the right and left side, so whatever they ask me to do I’m fired up and ready to do it. That’s why they drafted me, and I’m going to prove that it was the right decision.”
Hageman, the fifth pick of the second round, joins a defense that ranked last in third-down efficiency, second-worst against the run and third-fewest in sacks.
The Falcons plan to play Hageman at defensive end. He started his last 26 games at nose tackle for the Gophers.
“I won’t say I’m ready yet, but I’ll take on that challenge,” Hageman said on a conference call. “Obviously with the good coaching staff they have, I feel like I’m in good hands. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Southward, a full-time starter in 2012-13, is part of the Falcons‘ revamping at free safety after five-year starter Thomas DeCoud was released in March.
Dwight Lowery, signed last month as a free agent, and Kemal Ishmael, a seventh-round draft pick last year, are the other free safeties listed on Atlanta’s roster.
The Falcons have made a heavy investment on the defensive lines during the offseason.
They signed defensive end Tyson Jackson and defensive tackle Paul Soliai in free agency. Atlanta re-signed starting defensive tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Corey Peters.
Atlanta’s defense was hampered last year by injuries to linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and defensive end Kroy Biermann. Free safety Thomas DeCoud and cornerback Asante Samuel both underperformed and were released.