FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Richard Smith didn't want to go overboard in offering praise, but the Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator did give first-round draft pick Vic Beasley quite a compliment while discussing the rookie pass-rusher's potential.
"I hate to relate him to somebody else ... he's got great speed and quickness, very similar to Von Miller," said Smith, who coached Miller in Denver last season. "I'm not saying he's a Von Miller. You've got to go out and earn those things. But I think if you talk to Vic, he would tell you that [Miller] is one of the players that he's watched over the years. But he does have that elite quickness, very similar to what Von Miller had when he came out."
Defensive line coach Bryan Cox, though also impressed with Beasley, put the first month of work with the rookie in perspective.
"He's showing the first-step quickness and the closing speed," Cox said. "For sure, he's stronger in the pass rush then he is in the run game. But this is gym class. We'll see when we put the pads on how it goes. I'm not real fired up or real eager to say how well a guy is doing in shorts. To me, this is not real football. We'll cross that bridge when we get to training camp.
"You see the potential. All the things that got him drafted, you see. But now you're going to have to see the other part. When the pads come on, that's where there's separation."
Beasley is eager to make an immediate impact. He previously announced his goal of reaching double-digit sacks this season. His adjustment to the defense got derailed a bit this week when he suddenly came up with a shoulder injury, an injury that all but kept him out of action during Tuesday's organized team activities.
Beasley continued to take mental reps and review some of the finer points of pass-rushing he's already learned from coach Dan Quinn, a defensive line guru, and Cox.
"I've learned a lot of different moves and just about being better with my hands," Beasley said. "Obviously, I've been blessed with great speed, but DQ and coach Cox have been helping me become more violent with my hands. You've got to be violent with your hands at this level to be a successful pass-rusher."
The Falcons sorely need someone to inject life into the pass rush after recording a league-low 83 sacks over the last three seasons. The Falcons pressured quarterbacks on only 22 percent of dropbacks last season, which ranked 29th in the NFL and last in the NFC, according to ESPN Statistics and Information.
Veterans such as outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield and defensive end Adrian Clayborn were added to help bolster the rush. Second-year player Ra'Shede Hageman is also expected to give the team more of a push from the interior.
Beasley, however, is the one with the highest expectations surrounding him. His teammates have been impressed with how he's handled himself thus far.
"Just a kid that's willing to learn," defensive lineman Jonathan Babineaux said of Beasley. "He comes in to practice and works hard. He's got a quick first step. I think it's going to be utilized big this year for us. I'm just looking forward to getting out there on the field on Sundays with the kid."
Babineaux said Beasley reminds him of one player in particular.
"I kind of say he has that quick first step like Abe," Babineaux said, referring to former Falcon John Abraham. "He doesn't have that expertise yet as far as utilizing all his pass-rush moves, but the quick first step definitely reminds me of Abe."
Abraham was the last Falcon to record double-digit sacks with 10 in 2012. Maybe Beasley will be the next in 2015.