Skip to main content
Presented by

Ade Ogundeji 'quietly' coming into his own on Falcons defense  

Ted Monachino once said the plan for Ogundeji was to be the "bell cow" of the outside linebacker position. It feels as though that day has come. 

It was the first of October in 2021 when outside linebackers coach Ted Monachino laid out the vision for then-rookie edge rusher Ade Ogundeji. Though a fifth-round draft pick in 2021, Monachino didn't hesitate in saying the Falcons could see his role on the defense not only expanding, but thriving in the future.

"With all of these players moving in and out of the building we're going to ask - at some point - Ade to be the bell cow in the room," Monachino said two months into Ogundeji's rookie season. "We're preparing him for that right now."

Nine months later, that vision is starting to materialize on the practice field.


The outside linebacker position underwent a complete overhaul this offseason. Dante Fowler, Steven Means and Brandon Copeland all parted ways with the Falcons. The organization went out and signed Lorenzo Carter to a one-year deal. Atlanta also drafted not one but two edge rushers in the 2022 NFL Draft: Arnold Ebiketie and DeAngelo Malone. All the while, though, Ogundeji continued to work, knowing good and well that he'd be called upon even more in 2022 than he was in 2021.

And he was called upon a lot throughout his rookie year. Primarily used in a rotational role at first, Ogundeji's responsibilities continued to grow and expand as his rookie year went on. By the end of the season, he had started 11 games. Now, he returns to the Falcons for his second year, and he seems to have stepped into the vision of what Monachino set for him in 2021.

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji #92 poses during 2022 Creative Day at CW Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch, GA, on June 13, 2022. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Atlanta Falcons)

Ogundeji looks the part more than he ever did in his rookie year, too. He's bigger. He looks faster and stronger. And even in these practices that are not entirely live, he's standing out even though Ogundeji in and of himself isn't a guy who wants any of the spotlight on him.

Arthur Smith said it best: Ogundeji isn't a "flashy guy" but he is a "really solid person." Tough and smart, but not the guy people on the outside notice too much. Perhaps that's why Smith said what he did after practice earlier this week.

"Ade, quietly, continues to get better," Smith said.

Meanwhile, Monachino echoed this sentiment, discussing Ogundeji's development as a player - and even a leader - in his second year in the league.

"He's very underspoken. He's not loud, boisterous guy, but when he speaks all those guys listen," Monachino said. "On tape, all I have to do is put the green dot on him and have him watch and say, 'This is how you do it,' and most of them can follow."

"He's done a good job of taking his own role in the group. It's not his thing, to be a leader, so he's just going to do it the way he does it and that's by example."

Smith said he tries to be impartial to all the guys, but there's a soft spot in his heart for the players you can tell are grinding daily, "who are working for something." He sees that in Ogundeji.

Atlanta Falcons linebacker Adetokunbo Ogundeji #92 in action during Atlanta Falcons minicamp on June 10, 2021.

For Ogundeji, himself, he laughs that it is odd that he's one of the older guys in the outside linebacker room. He'll tell you, though, that the experiences he had in 2021 helped him feel more confident in 2022.

"I think last year was great learning experience for me just playing faster," Ogundeji said. "You get so many plays and stuff that you never get in college. You get a certain amount of plays in college and you just play fast, but here it's more of a mental thing. It's a lot of trying to think about things pre-snap. Now, you get the understanding, and if you understand it you play fast."

And Ogundeji equates playing fast with playing at one's best.

"The great guys? They know how to play, and they just play. They go out and they do their jobs. They play fast," he said. "They don't think about things during the play."

That stems from confidence, and Ogundeji feels that he's stepped into that confidence in his second year.

"You have to be confident that you know what the play is going to be, how the offensive line is going to set up so you can make that play," Ogundeji explained. "I think that was another big step. I was so focused on what I was doing (last year) that I wasn't really focused on all the other things. That's a big thing that I've learned. I was like, OK, I can understand protections, where they're doing slides, where the little holes in the gap is and what you can do. There are different ways of getting to the quarterback, and I have to find that way of getting to him."

He has to because - as the envisioned "bell cow" of the position - his second year in the league is a big one, and everyone knows it.

"He's starting to figure it out," Smith said.

We take a closer look at the details of training camp days.


Interested in Falcons tickets?

Join us in 2022 for 9 Regular Season home games! Let us help you find the seats and benefits that interest you!

Related Content