It was late in the season, but when Jonathan Massaquoi hit the field in 2012, he used a positive preseason experience and every moment on special teams to do enough to keep getting opportunities. He ended the year with two tackles and added two more on special teams, but everything he did last year has set him up to take further strides in 2013.
Massaquoi will be in the thick of a heavily contested Russell Athletic Atlanta Falcons Training Camp battle at defensive end. The experience of last season combined with perfect attendance during OTAs this offseason has given Massaquoi the opportunity to make more of an impact in the coming season. He said during OTAs that everything he went through in 2012 was about gaining the trust of the coaching staff and his late-season reps were a sign that trust was developing.
This year, Massaquoi said, he doesn't have to think anymore. Entering his second season he's ready to take what he's learned and put it on the field.
"This year those baby steps are gone," Massaquoi said during May's OTAs. "All I have to do is come out here and play ball."
The trust had to first begin on special teams and Massaquoi said that was where he tried to grab the coaches' eyes and show he was capable of bigger assignments.
"Before you can get into your position, you have to show that you can be trusted," he said. "Special teams was my stronghold last year and that later on allowed me to acclimate into my position."
During the preseason last year, Massaquoi showed glimpses of what he can do on the field. In four games, he gathered 12 tackles with four of them coming for a loss of yards. This year he says he has a deeper understanding of the playbook, understanding what each position is to do on each play.
It compares it to a bicycle and having an understanding of how each part works independently to make the whole bike go. Armed with that knowledge this year, he's ready to go out and just play.
"I don't just know one part of the bicycle, now I know the chain, the handle bars, the seat, I know how to properly ride the bike," he said. "That's my goal this year coming onto the field, being properly able to ride that bike and just go out there and play ball."