Atlanta Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley has come a long way. Just a year ago, Beasley was playing through a torn rotator cuff, navigating difficult family issues, and trying desperately to adjust to life as a professional football player. Many Falcons fans wondered aloud whether Beasley was a reach pick and destined for "bust" status. That was, of course, incredibly premature, and Beasley has blown us away with his play in 2016.
Looking ahead the Falcons will rely heavily of Beasley in the playoffs. The defense is improving; each week they get better. But they're banged up and there's still a lot of youth on that side of the ball. It's not necessarily fair to him, but Beasley really does have to put this defense on his back.
The Ringer's Danny Kelly wrote a must-read piece today about Beasley and what he can realistically accomplish in the playoffs. Kelly actually uses game tape to break down all of Beasley's signature moves and gives us some understanding of why he's so freakishly talented. (In short, go read it now, if you haven't already.) Here's an interesting paragraph - please forgive the epic block quote - from Kelly's piece that ought to get you excited:
Once the playoffs begin, Beasley is going to have a chance to feast. The NFC field is ripe with substandard right tackles: For the Giants, it's Bobby Hart, who ranks 68th in pass protection among offensive tackles, per Pro Football Focus. Seahawks? Garry Gilliam, Bradley Sowell, or both. It won't matter which one it is, because they're both awful — Gilliam ranks 62nd in pass protection, with Sowell at 67th. For the Lions, it's Riley Reiff, or the 42nd-ranked pass-protecting tackle. Even for the Cowboys, who boast the best offensive line in football, Doug Free is the weak link on the right side (ranked 37th). Tampa Bay right tackle Demar Dotson ranks 34th, and Washington's Morgan Moses comes in 20th. In the conference, only the Packers, with Bryan Bulaga (ranked third) field a top-tier pass-protecting right tackle.
This is good news, Falcons fans. From a matchup standpoint, Beasley has the edge. (See what I did there?) But does that answer my question? Can Beasley singlehandedly elevate the defense?
In my opinion, he can, as long as we temper our expectations. We don't need him to make this defense elite; we simply need him to be elite. We know the offense can explode and put a lot of points on the board against pretty much any defense. If that continues going forward, then Beasley need only elevate this defense from bad to mediocre. That will be enough.
So what say you? Can Beasley shoulder this responsibility? Discuss!