Australian NFL star Daniel Faalele gets critical acclaim from Baltimore Ravens coach in preseason

Australian behemoth Daniel Faalele wasn’t expected to start many NFL games this season after being picked by the Baltimore Ravens in the April draft, but according to a coach, the rookie is arriving “by leaps and bounds.”

The 203cm, 174kg offensive lineman, who hails from Melbourne, is the biggest player in the NFL, but that doesn’t slow his development.

Faalele, who is only 22, has only been playing since 2017 after moving to the US from Australia.

It means he’s understandably rough when it comes to the finer points of blocking, but Ravens Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman couldn’t be more impressed with the former University of Minnesota ace’s progress.

Born and raised in Melbourne, Daniel Faalele was recruited to Baltimore from the University of Minnesota

Born and raised in Melbourne, Daniel Faalele was recruited to Baltimore from the University of Minnesota

Daniel Faalele (right) blocks Rashad Weaver in Ravens win last week

Daniel Faalele (right) blocks Rashad Weaver in Ravens win last week

‘I am very happy with him. I think he’s taken a step by staying here after our off-season program and working with our strength and conditioning staff and stuff,” Roman said after a recent training session.

“I really think it allowed him to come to training camp in much better shape and ready to compete.”

Instead of going home to have a celebratory drink for six weeks between the mandatory mini camp and training, Faalele succumbed to his knees and stayed at the Ravens facility.

Daniel Faalele said he got a lot of confidence from his very first NFL game

Daniel Faalele said he got a lot of confidence from his very first NFL game

It helped him to get much fitter for the training camp and he passed the fitness test with flying colours, despite his huge frame.

Roman said Faalele’s decision to stay and do additional training and preparation demonstrated a willingness to participate immediately – one of the attributes any Australian athlete would be most proud of.

“An arrow up for him,” Roman said of his call to the coaching staff.

Daniel Faalele, pictured in March, often waves a big smile on his face as he watches the media

Daniel Faalele, pictured in March, often waves a big smile on his face as he watches the media

In an interview after a practice session on Monday, the Australian convert, who played basketball and rugby in his teens, said the Ravens’ attacking veterans were also crucial to his development.

“Yes, ‘Zeit’ (Kevin Zeitler) and Morgan (Moses) have been a huge help as veterans, and so has Ja’Wuan James. And Ronnie (Stanley) too,” he said of the Ravens strong offensive line, tasked with protecting one of fooball’s most exciting quarterbacks: Lamar Jackson.

“The older tackles alone help me get familiar with the playbook and the environment. Just learn from them how to prepare and practice, and just be a pro, really.’

Daniel Faalele prepares to block in Baltimore preseason win over Tennessee - his first NFL game

Daniel Faalele prepares to block in Baltimore preseason win over Tennessee – his first NFL game

Last week, Faalele took the field for the first time as an NFL player, playing 63 snaps in the Ravens 23-10 preseason win over the Titans.

The fact that he played so many snaps – the second most on the team – points to how high he already ranks on the coaching staff.

One particular highlight (seen below, Faalele wears number 77) showed Faalele blocking his opponent on the right side of the line with ease, helping Mike Davis run back for a four-yard touchdown.

After a session at training camp, Faalele said his first NFL hit, albeit in the preseason, gave him confidence that the extra work is paying off.

“I could feel more comfortable with the game and how it’s going,” said the sweet-tempered Aussie.

It’s obviously all great praise – but with its remarkable size, many offensive linemen would struggle to take the next step in pace and agility, from college football to the NFL.

Daniel Faalele and longtime friend Brianna Montgomery after the Aussie learned he was drafted by the Ravens

Daniel Faalele and longtime friend Brianna Montgomery after the Aussie learned he was drafted by the Ravens

Roman is not concerned about his size – he is the heaviest player in the league and the second greatest of all time – and it is good news for Faalele and Ravens fans in Australia.

“Daniel, he’s not stiff at all. He is very flexible; he bends well. He can play with a flat back for a man of his size, which is quite remarkable. He has excellent feet,’ said Roman.

“He needs to keep working and learning how to play this game at this level.”

The Ravens continue their campaign for the season on August 22 (AEST) against the Cardinals, and Australian fans will be cheering him on with every snap he gets.

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