Falcons' Vic Beasley Jr. vows to keep pushing through 'frustrating' season

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley Jr. is far from satisfied with his performance through 12 games.

Beasley knows expectations of him are higher than most, considering he was the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft and had a league-best 15.5 sacks in 2016. But as of right now, Beasley has just three sacks and six quarterback hits with four games remaining in the 2018 season, although he did return a fumble 74 yards for a touchdown last week.

"There are expectations for certain people, and my expectations are to be a certain-caliber guy, a double-digit sack guy," Beasley said. "That's my expectations for myself. So, it's frustrating. That's frustrating for anybody who sets goals and doesn't reach those goals.

"I wish my production was higher. But all I can do is just go there and continue to put my best effort on the field and try to show each and every coach that I play hard, play for my teammates, and give my best effort."

The 4-8 Falcons have had an array of issues this season, including crippling injuries on both sides of the ball and troubles physically controlling the line of scrimmage. From a defensive line perspective, head coach Dan Quinn hasn't been pleased with the overall performance of the unit. Beasley's subpar individual showing has some fans wondering if he'll even be back with the team next season, considering the Falcons thought having him focus solely on rushing as a defensive end would ignite a big year.

Quinn said everything will be evaluated after the season, including the roster. Beasley has one year remaining on his contract after the team picked up his fifth-year option worth $12.81 million in 2019. That salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 13 -- the first day of the new league year -- meaning the Falcons would save that total against the cap before it becomes guaranteed. And Beasley reportedly drew some interest before this year's trade deadline, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see teams inquire about him again next year, if the Falcons are willing to listen.

The Falcons picking up a fifth-year option typically is the first move toward rewarding a player with a long-term extension. There really hasn't been much public discussion regarding such a move with Beasley, although he hopes it becomes part of the conversation.

"Every individual would love to secure a long-term deal," Beasley said. "You do that by being the best player you can be on the field and by keeping on performing at a high level. I feel like that's every man's goal. That's my goal too. My goal is to perform at a high level and be the best I can be."

Beasley entered the season intent on rediscovering his 2016 touch, when he also forced six fumbles to go with leading the league in sacks. He said he worked on countermoves to give himself a better opportunity for success rushing the passer. There have been times when Beasley has been replaced in the base defense for run-stopping purposes, but he still has averaged a hefty 41.8 snaps per game, 5.5 more snaps than his career average.

"I feel like there have been opportunities," Beasley said. "You just have to take advantage of those opportunities. I've missed some here and there. But everyone has room for improvement. I just have to continue to keep moving forward and challenging myself to do better in every area."

The Falcons enter Sunday's road game against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers with 23 sacks, which ranks 28th out of 32 teams. Takkarist McKinley and Jack Crawford lead the team with 5.5 sacks apiece. The addition of Bruce Irvin was expected to inject more life into the pass rush and maybe ignite Beasley. There's still time for that to happen, especially if the Falcons get more chances to rush by stopping the run. They currently rank 27th against the run, allowing 130.7 rushing yards per game.

Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel offered his assessment of Beasley's play.

"One part is, again, you have to stop the run in order to get to the pass," Manuel said. "[Then] there are opportunities to rush the passer. When it is, yes, he has to be ready to go.

"The consistency from him -- again, I've always said this -- competition breeds anything. The guys around him breeding that same competition is going to breed it out of him. That's what we anticipate from him from that standpoint. ... The consistency level of his energy that he brings every day is needed."