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Falcons' Vic Beasley looking to be difference-maker again

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. plans to make significant strides moving forward by taking a long look back.

The 2016 NFL sack champion isn't reflecting on his 15.5-sack Super Bowl season for inspiration going into 2018. Instead, Beasley has spent this offseason dissecting film of last season, when he managed just five sacks and one forced fumble in 14 games. The self-study was strongly encouraged by coach Dan Quinn when Beasley and Quinn had their season-ending heart-to-heart.

"I talked to DQ, and he felt the thing that could be beneficial to me is going back and studying my games from last year, improving off that and looking at the things that I kind of didn't succeed in, and trying to make that a better part of my game," Beasley told ESPN. "I felt like I left a lot of plays out there where I could have changed the outcome. I could have made sacks and I could have made tackles for losses on certain plays. It didn't really hurt us, but I could have been a difference-maker in games."

Beasley refused to point to the early hamstring strain that sidelined him for a couple of games or the added attention from opposing teams as excuses for his drop in production. He also wouldn't use playing more strongside linebacker and being asked at times to drop into coverage as crutches.

"It didn't take me out of my game," Beasley said of playing linebacker along with nickel end. "I just felt like it was what the team needed at that moment."

In the same breath, Beasley did appear somewhat relieved that the coaches relinquished those linebacker duties heading into the 2018 season.

"I'm focused on one thing," Beasley said. "I don't have to worry about playing the linebacker position; strictly defensive end. I focus on getting after the quarterback. That makes things a lot more smoother and a lot more simple for me."

Since the Falcons evolved into a top-10 unit under new coordinator Marquand Manuel a year ago, just imagine what level the defense could reach if Beasley can dominate. Quinn said one of the areas of emphasis, as always, is getting Beasley to work on countermoves. Everyone knows Beasley can beat opponents with speed off the edge, which is why offensive tackles are oversetting to contend with him. Now he has to be able to dip back inside or even use power rushes to take down quarterbacks or get his hands up to deflect passes. He possesses enough strength to overpower blockers. It could be just a matter of playing with more nastiness and less finesse.

Beasley is more than capable of creating turnovers, too, as indicated by his six forced fumbles in 2016, which tied for the league lead. Quinn wants to see more of those strip sacks, particularly for a defense that tied for 27th in the league with only 16 takeaways last season.

"It's just about getting there, because Coach knows if I get there, I'm going for the ball and putting the ball back in my offense's hands," Beasley said.

Although Beasley might be the key component, the Falcons are expecting increased pressure from the entire defensive front, despite losing sack leader Adrian Clayborn (Patriots) in free agency. More interior pressure is a strong area of emphasis, and the Falcons seem likely to address it by drafting a disruptive defensive tackle to pair with nose tackle Grady Jarrett. A stronger push up the middle will make life easier on Beasley and Takkarist McKinley rushing off the edges. And they will have to be prepared to defend the run when needed.

"Takk is amazing," Beasley said of McKinley, who made the most of limited snaps as a rookie. "I'm excited to see what the future holds for him. I know he's going to flourish. We're all working in unison, man, so it's going to be exciting in the near future."

And speaking of the future, the Falcons eventually have to address Beasley's contract situation. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has already said that the team plans to pick up the former eighth overall pick's fifth-year option through 2019.

Beasley is not overly concerned about any contract talks.

"All I have to do is go produce, go help my team get back to this championship and go win this Super Bowl," Beasley said. "That's our goal. And I feel like if I give my all, the future will take care of itself."