With two sacks in three games, Falcons’ first-round pick Vic Beasley is already living up to lofty expectations. The Georgia-bred linebacker feels right at home in Dan Quinn’s defense
The 3-0 Atlanta Falcons have taken on the identity of their head coach, an enthusiastic guy with a reputation for tough defense. One of the key pieces to Dan Quinn’s puzzle is rookie pass rusher Vic Beasley. The Clemson product has already made his presence felt with a pair of sacks, including one on a critical third down in Dallas last week that helped clinch Atlanta’s 39-28 victory. A Georgia native who grew up rooting for the Falcons, Beasley was thrilled at the opportunity to play in his home state, just a little more than an hour’s drive from his hometown of Adairsville. And just a few games into his rookie season, the Falcons have been just as thrilled to have him on their team.
VRENTAS: Let’s start with your sack last week, which forced the Cowboys to punt on a critical drive in the fourth quarter. You beat star left tackle Tyron Smith to take down Brandon Weeden. How did you make that play?
BEASLEY: I knew that they were in a passing situation, and I just beat the tackle off the edge. I was able to get the same position as the tackle, and I was even with him, and I was able to put my left arm in and use my rip move and get the sack. My teammates were excited, because they knew it was a big play in the game.
The more you play, the more you learn. That extra year allowed me to mature more as a player.
VRENTAS: What have you learned so far about the difference in facing NFL left tackles vs. college left tackles?
BEASLEY: The speed of the game changes, and there is better competition. I have been using my speed, because that is my best asset. I think I just need to work more on the use of my hands, becoming more violent with my hands, and then I can become a dominant pass rusher. I have some moves that I used in college, I just have to become great at it.
VRENTAS: How do you make use of your speed?
BEASLEY: My speed is my best gift. If I am able to get even with the tackle, the majority of the time, I can get around and eventually get sacks. When you are running around the edge, if you get even with the tackle, the majority of the time you have a good chance to get a sack. You use what you have been given, whatever your best move is.
VRENTAS: What personality has the team taken from Dan Quinn?
BEASLEY: He’s a winner. He just wants the team to play hard. It’s like you are playing for your brother. We’re all family here, and we just want to play hard for each other, just as if you worked for an individual in your immediate family. He challenges the players, challenges us to compete, and go that extra mile.
VRENTAS: Is his defense a lot of fun to play in? It seems like you guys are out there flying around.
BEASLEY: Yeah, especially for me. It’s a great position, the “Leo” [defensive end/outside linebacker] position, because there is success waiting. Success has been waiting for me in his defense because it allows me to be free.
VRENTAS: What is asked of you in the “Leo” position?
BEASLEY: Just to be a dominant player and make plays. It is primarily a rush position, but whenever the run comes, you have to play the run. Whenever it is pass, you have to get sacks.
VRENTAS: Quinn has talked about your play so far with enthusiasm. Does that kind of feedback help encourage you?
BEASLEY: He gives me motivation that I can be a great player in this league. I just have to keep working hard to better myself.
VRENTAS: You decided to stay at Clemson for your senior year instead of coming out early. Do you think that extra year helped smooth your transition to the NFL?
BEASLEY: The more you play, the more you learn. That extra year allowed me to mature more as a player.
VRENTAS: And you got Clemson’s career sacks record (33) while you were at it.
BEASLEY: Yeah, it was a good feeling. I just tried to do the best I could to play up to the other greats to come through Clemson, and hopefully I set a standard that other great pass rushers that come through there can strive for, and help them be great one day.
VRENTAS: Your college roommate, and one of the team’s equipment managers, created a Wall of Sacks at your apartment, with a picture of each of your sacks at Clemson as you aimed for the school record. Will do you start a Wall of Sacks for your NFL career?
BEASLEY: Nah, it’s nothing I’ve done here. It was up there in college for motivation to try to break records and get as many sacks as I could. My motivation now is just to not let my teammates down, and be the best player I can be.
VRENTAS: There was a lot of talk about your size leading up to the draft and whether you were big enough to set the edge. Has that driven you to become a better run defender?
BEASLEY: Yeah, that’s motivation. It has challenged me to become a better player in that area. It’s coming along pretty good. I’ve changed in a positive way as a player in that area. Just playing dominant, and working on block schemes, and developing better study habits.
VRENTAS: You face the Texans this week, and they have a pretty good pass rusher named J.J. Watt. Which players around the league do you look up to?
BEASLEY: Watt is a dominant player. Real surgical. He’s been blessed with great talent. Plays both the run and pass real good. I like Von Miller’s game a lot. He’s one of the guys I try to follow and look up to. [On the Falcons], the whole defensive line is cool. Great guys, and they all want to be great players. That’s what motivates me—it pushes me to measure up.
VRENTAS: Why did you pick No. 44 in Atlanta?
BEASLEY: No. 8 pick, so 4 plus 4 equals 8. Something that is memorable for me.
VRENTAS: What responsibility do you feel to the organization as the No. 8 pick?
BEASLEY: There are high expectations when you are drafted that high, so you try to produce on the field. It’s motivation. You don’t want just to get to the NFL, you want to be a Hall of Famer one day. That’s really the motivation I have. To leave a legacy. Just keep working; just keep watching great players like Von Miller. I’m pretty sure he’ll be in there one day, if he keeps doing what he is doing.
VRENTAS: It must be fun to start your NFL career going 3-0.
BEASLEY: It’s positive vibes around here, but we understand we can’t get to the playoffs with three wins. We try to be the best we can be. Try to win every game. We are never satisfied.
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