A lot was expected of Vic Beasley as a rookie, but he failed to deliver. Will he make the key second year jump the Atlanta Falcons defense needs?
Beasley flashed plenty of potential in his debut campaign, showcasing his lightning burst off the snap and incredible athleticism. An inability to finish plays held his sack count in check with just four, but there’s plenty to build from entering his second season.
Beasley played much of the season with a torn labrum, although he refused to blame the injury for his struggles. Fully healthy, the Falcons will lean on him to help rejuvenate the pass defense.
Some have pointed to Raiders’ pass rusher Khalil Mack’s rookie season and drawn parallels. Mack was the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but too finished his first year with just four sacks. He played well in that time but didn’t light up offensive linemen like the Raiders had hoped.
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That all changed in 2015. Mack broke through with 15 sacks on the year, behind only J.J. Watt who netted 17.5. It was a dominant campaign for Mack, who finally made good on his high draft pick.
The Falcons are hoping Beasley can do the same, and they feel the best way to use him is in a variety of roles.
Beasley will move to linebacker when the Falcons are in their base defense, although he will continue to rush the passer from defensive end in nickel packages. The NFL’s trend towards sub-packages is continuing, with each team spending at least 60 percent of snaps in nickel last season. Beasley will have plenty of opportunities to get after the passer.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn is looking for more versatility, and perhaps unpredictability, from his defense this year. Beasley isn’t the only player to move around.
Ra’Shede Hageman is to spend more time at defensive end, and free agent signing Courtney Upshaw will also audition at the position.
After spending such a high pick on Beasley, the Falcons need him to come good on his potential. His unique blend of speed and athleticism is evident for all to see, but he now needs to show he can finish plays consistently and lead the charge in Atlanta’s defensive revival.