Falcons defensive lineman Jonathan Massaquoi participates in a drill during minicamp.
FLOWERY BRANCH — In his 2010 season at Troy, Jonathan Massaquoi weighed about 260 pounds when he led the Sun Belt Conference with 13½ sacks.
Last season, Massaquoi was up to 275 pounds, and he had only six sacks.
Coach Mike Smith said Saturday the Atlanta Falcons were looking for the lighter version of Massaquoi when they selected the defensive end in the fifth round of last month’s NFL draft.
Smith said Massaquoi’s weight loss was “by design.”
“We felt that looking at him as a junior and then looking at his senior tape he looked to be heavier as a senior,” Smith said after Saturday’s practice. “He played a little bit lighter as a junior when he had more production. His weight is down and he looks a lot leaner than he did as a senior.”
Massaquoi, listed at 6-foot-2, said he’s back at about 259 pounds and he looked lean and quick as he went through drills during Saturday’s second day of the Falcons’ three-day rookie minicamp.
He is trying to show Smith’s staff he can join starting defensive ends John Abraham and Ray Edwards as top pass rushers.
The Falcons also have Kroy Biermann, Lawrence Sidbury and 2011 seventh-round pick Cliff Matthews as returning defensive ends.
Atlanta ranked 19th in the league with 33 sacks last season and is looking to put more pressure on quarterbacks under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. Abraham led the team with 9½ sacks. Edwards had only 3½ sacks.
“The opportunity is definitely great,” Massaquoi said. “We have a new defensive coordinator and there’s a new defense being put into the system.
“We’re experiencing all the things the veterans have to pick up when they get to camp on Tuesday, so just to have that kind of heads-up is good and it’s going to be easier to acclimate ourselves to the game speed and what they’re asking of us once the veterans get here.”
Smith said he’s not concerned Massaquoi will be too light to be productive as a pass-rushing specialist.
“The skill set that we liked about Jonathan when we went through this draft process was that he could rush the passer,” Smith said. “That was a trait that he had and very good speed around the corner.
“Weight is not as important when you start talking about a guy rushing the passer. There are a lot of guys who have gotten sacks in this league who are under 260 pounds.”
Smith said Massaquoi has made a good impression in the camp.
“I thought Jonathan has shown what he did, especially as a junior, in rushing the passer,” Smith said.
Massaquoi says he’s looking forward to learning from Abraham, who turned 34 last week.
“Definitely I want to come in here with a veteran mindset but I want to be a sponge,” Massaquoi said. “I haven’t taken any NFL snaps. I want to take all the coaching that’s possible and I want to be very observant of the players in front of me. John Abraham is a great player, a great athlete. He’s done a lot for the organization and hopefully I can carry on the tradition as well once he’s gone.”
Massaquoi’s cousin is Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Another cousin is former Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.
“Definitely that has helped throughout this process, but both of them unfortunately play offense,” said Jonathan Massaquoi.
Notes: The team’s offseason team activities begin on May 29. … Offensive tackle Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick from Southern Mississippi, again wore a protective boot on his left foot due as he watched Saturday’s practice. He is being held out due to what the team says is a minor injury. … There are 46 players in the minicamp, including undrafted rookie free agents and members of the 2011 practice squad. The only quarterback in the minicamp is East Carolina’s Dominique Davis, who began his career at Boston College.