FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Bryan Cox is tired of hearing the criticism.
The Atlanta Falcons defensive line coach knows all about the chatter still lingering from last season regarding the first-year showing of Vic Beasley Jr., the eighth-overall pick in last year's NFL draft. Beasley had four sacks as a rookie, which fell well below his personal goals and the high expectations others put on him.
"When you're talking about last season, everybody -- the so-called prognosticators and the professionals -- are harping about what Vic didn't do last season, but I take the opposite approach," Cox said. "You look at all the times he hit the quarterback and pressured the quarterback. If we can maybe just do a little better job of turning some of those into sacks, people would be quite pleased with him.
"At the end of the day, at least from my standpoint the way I look at it, I think the guy is going to be OK. He's worked this [offseason]. You see his speed better. You see his work ethic picking up, not that he wasn't a good worker last year. But you see him having a little better understanding in Year 2 making the little jump. There's still some technical stuff that we're going to work on and get better. But I think, at the end of the day, it's also everybody else within the group pulling their weight so it's not just a one-man band. It's not one man."
Beasley has to be the best guy in the group, since the Falcons didn't totally address the pass rush through free agency or the draft. Coach Dan Quinn said the team won't sign veteran Dwight Freeney at this time but could revisit Freeney down the road. There is talk about Brooks Reed helping the pass rush, but that has to be evident on Sundays to be believed. And the coaches insist Beasley's ability to pass-rush won't be thrown off by his move to strong side linebacker.
"I think he's on schedule; I think he's going to do a good job," Cox said of Beasley. "I'm going to let everybody else put all that pressure and talk about all what he should be and 'he's a bust' and this and that because nobody knows. Tell me who looked at the tape? Tell me who can tell what we're teaching?
"I think that's unfair to put on him. And I think it's unfair to say, 'Well, you were the eighth pick in the draft.' It's never one man. How many rookies have ever been drafted that you say, 'This guy's going to come and be elite, and he's going to take us where we need to go.' I don't know one man that's ever done that. So, I think it's unfair. And the pressure being put him is not coming from this side. I think he has a chance to be a really good player, and we're going to keep working towards that."