INDIANAPOLIS – Vic Beasley is entering the final year of his rookie deal with the Falcons, and coach Dan Quinn appears intent to find out just what type of ceiling the pass rusher has.
"I'm very much looking forward to having a hands-on approach with him," Quinn said at the NFL combine. "I told him by the end of the spring he'll either love me or hate me, and I'm good with either of them but we're going to put it in. He knows the work that it's going to take to play really consistent, and I'm looking forward to seeing him do it."
Barring anything unexpected prior to the start of the league year on March 13, Beasley will be back in Atlanta for a fifth season after the Falcons exercised their team option on the former first-round pick last offseason.
Beasley's time with the Falcons has been fairly inconsistent. He led the NFL with 15.5 sacks during the Falcons' Super Bowl run in 2016, but he's failed to record more than five sacks in any of his other three seasons. Now back at defensive coordinator, Quinn appears to be making Beasley a bit of a pet project.
Defensive end could be a position the Falcons add to this offseason. Atlanta has nine draft picks in this year’s NFL draft, and it's a spot where the Falcons could bring in some new faces, especially after parting ways with Brooks Reed after the season.
But regardless of who the team adds prior to 2019, it will need to address the inconsistency that plagued the defense in 2018. That's likely one of the reasons why Quinn wanted to take over the unit in addition to his responsibilities as a head coach.
"It was very far away," Quinn said of how far off the defense was from where he'd like it to be. "And I felt like our compass was really off. We missed a lot of tackles, we didn't create enough takeaways. And I would say, on a team that's really rocking there's 30, 40, 50 hits that are like, 'Woah, they're bringing it.' We certainly were not in that space. There is an edginess about really good defensive play that I love.
Beasley is a player who represents that inconsistency, but he's not the only one who will be asked to improve in that area. As Quinn begins the process of shifting the defense back to where he would like it to be, he's going to take a close look at the routines of his players.
He explained that he will want to dig into a player's approach to each week, to his game preparation and how he gets focused for each practice. To get things corrected on the field, he'll want to make sure there is consistency off of it.
"When you go through that with them, tell me what being more consistent looks like," Quinn said. "… Because if we just stay doing what we're doing, we'll probably get the same results."
There are still plenty of major decisions to be made before the Falcons re-convene for training camp in the spring, but it's clear Quinn has already begun to seriously think about how things went wrong for Atlanta in 2018.
The easiest answer for many would be injuries, and that's a factor that shouldn't be discounted. But, standing on a podium at the combine, declared for all that he believes inconsistency was the main takeaways from last season.
From individual players, such as Beasley, to the overall defensive mentality, Quinn is working to change the identity of the unit he's just taken over.
"I'm looking forward to getting started back with the guys," Quinn said. "It's not going to be for a while, but I would say we will have an edgy team. Certainly, with some guys with things to prove, and I certainly love that."