After a rookie campaign that was nothing to marvel at, linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. has proven to be one of the NFL’s top pass rushers in his second season.
His 9.5 sacks lead the Atlanta Falcons (7-4) and are the fifth best mark in the NFL, just half a sack behind the three players tied for second.
Last season Beasley had four sacks starting in all 16 games for the Falcons. He said seeing this much of a jump in his production is motivation to keep up the hard work that he credits for the success.
“It’s a great feeling to actually see the numbers getting up there, so I’m just going to continue to go for it,” Beasley said.
Taking a major leap from year one to year two is something defensive coordinator Richard Smith said he expects to see from players, and he said he is pleased to see Beasley doing just that.
Smith said he sees improvements in Beasley’s practice habits and mentioned that “everyday he tries to get better.” Beasley and Smith are both quick to explain that Beasley was working hard to get better last season and he did not have a bad work ethic in practice, but now with a year under his belt, he has a better mindset and approach in his preparation.
“He’s learned what to work for and how to work, and understands how to study a little bit better,” Smith said.
The Clemson product pointed to this past offseason as a time when he was first able to use his experience to help his growth. After getting the chance to get adjusted to a new team and a new system, he said he gained knowledge necessary to helping him train to become more of a threat to opposing offenses.
Although Beasley’s improvement is the most drastic, Smith said the pass rush as a whole has taken a step forward. He added that by all of the players getting better, it has helped create more favorable matchups for guys, and Beasley has done a good job in taking advantage of those situations.
As Beasley looks to continue his strong sophomore season, his uptick in knowledge will play a big role, along with his effort to remain “relentless.”
“Just going for it, and not letting people weigh me down,” he said. “Just using that as a stepping stone.”