Levels of excitement towards the Falcons pass rush in 2017 can be summed up in these parameters:
A) The Falcons have the greatest defensive line of all time, with two Reggie Whites and two Lawrence Taylors starting and other Michael Strahans, Von Millers and Deacon Joneses just chilling on the bench. If you know someone who believes this, don’t ask them for directions/medical advice. Ever.
B) The Falcons have the best defensive line in the NFL at the moment, which is bonkers, because my goodness did you see what the New York Jets did to vent their frustrations on the rest of the league for being perennial loserfaces? The Seattle Seahawks being gifted DT Sheldon Richardson, who I’m pretty sure ate a reserve offensive guard one time (look, you don’t know where Garrett Reynolds is either), is a misdeed the Jets will have to live with for the rest of their pathetic Gang Green lives. Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark and Sheldon Richardson? I hope every Seattle fan spills fresh Starbucks coffee on their laps while listening to the newest Macklemore song. LOL no Atlanta does not have the best defensive line in football today. This is the person you don’t allow to drive you to the airport, not because they won’t get there on time, but because they’re going to try and convince you that the Earth is flat the whole way there.
C) The Falcons have one of the best pass rushing groups in franchise history, as deep as it is talented, with DT Grady Jarrett poised for a breakout year, DT Dontari Poe the athletic interior rushing/run-stopping/center-bullying presence the team has needed for eons and rotational DL guy Jack Crawford potentially a sneaky addition that’s going to make everyone look dumb here in about six weeks for sleeping on him in March. We haven’t even talked about DE Adrian Clayborn, or DE Brooks Reed (now with super-action spin move!) or DE Derrick Shelby. And TAKK – the freak tornado who may just get to 45 sacks his rookie year on pure effort and energy alone. Heck, Courtney Upshaw even counts here. An Alabama defender who’s producing in the league. Who’da thunk. This is all of you. This is the person you Tweet with every day, the one you might be married to, the one that’s living next door, the one on that message board you shamelessly post on.
They’re all incorrect.
Well, Option “C” is the popular one, because the first two show such a state of dismissive disillusion that probably hints they’re not the world’s greatest football analysts, or you know, reasonable opining forces. Option “C” is what I call “the shiny new object” – where a fan base obsesses over the new things in front of them, forgetting about the meaty, beautiful steak sitting on the plate. Do you look at the knife the entire time, or do you cut that Filet Mignon harder than Dan Quinn going in on a metaphor about teamwork?
There is a lot of truth in “Option C” – Jarrett’s probably going to breakout this year, Poe’s addition is awesome and so needed, Takk is going to be a joy to watch every Sunday, Brooks Reed Spin Move Mania can’t stop, won’t stop. But, for the love of Freddie Falcon, we’re forgetting the big, juicy steak.
This could be the Von Miller season for OLB Vic Beasley Jr., the team’s best pass rusher, and by the end of this season, potentially, it’s best defensive player.
Pump up your Judd Nelson fist and blare Simple Minds: “Don’t you forget about Beas. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t you…forget about Beas, when he sacks that guy, when he makes Goff cry…”
Beasley was a terror in 2016, and he may not have even been playing at the peak of his potential. His 15.5 sacks were a league best – eclipsing fellow pass rushing monsters Von Miller and Khalil Mack (J.J. “President when his Career is Over” Watt was on the IR for most of the year). Vic Beasley Jr. did that. Remember those hot takes saying Beasley was a bust and all that garbage? That was literally a thing, and I can’t even write anything witty to display that level of moronic thinking.
Beasley’s 2016 game was simple – I’m going to out-athleticism you with my speed if you’re a slow tackle, use any and every stunt to my advantage or attempt to bull-rush you if you’re quick enough to catch on to how fast I am, and I’ve got a decent chance of winning. He ended the innocence of T Ty Sambralio (who now can reconcile with his new Brotherhood member Beasley), and we’re pretty sure when Jared Goff does his 30-for-30 on what spurred him to become a concert pianist, he’ll note the Rams game his rookie year and how Beasley ripped apart his morale bit by bit until there was nothing left to put on the field (Goff’s going to be fine sheesh take a joke).
In all actuality, Beasley’s 2016 season was kind of like a comet crashing to Earth – it was booming, beautiful, kind of messy in its arrival, took out everything in its wake and left a massive impact for all to see. The Beasley crater was only the first, though. Beasley is not Halley’s Comet, though – he’s primed to be the comet storm that wiped out the dinosaurs.
But, like the stupid dinosaurs who saw one comet crash and didn’t think that it was a little strange a gigantic space rock just landed in their watering hole, Falcons fandom seems to have forgotten about Beasley’s 2016 season when evaluating how dangerous the Atlanta defensive rotation could be.
Allow me to present two ideas:
1. The Falcons defensive line is filled with a mix of good-to-great players that puts it among the better groupings in the league. Though, it won’t be a devastating force like Seattle or Houston or the New York Giants, at least not until Takk McKinley fully comes into his own, and the team adds another impact body at defensive tackle.
2. If they do ascend to that elite plain, it won’t primarily be because of Jarrett, or Poe, or Takk, or D-Shelbs (just go with me on this), it will be because Vic Beasley Jr. became the league’s best overall pass rusher.
With Miller getting older and losing talent around him in Denver, Watt coming off back surgery and is closer to 30 than you thought (he’s 28), and Mack really the only consistently impactful player on his front seven, Beasley is the ascending talent at the position – he’s the main one, the one with the most potential, and while he was still realizing that potential, he lapped two of the guys above in the sack game.
Yes, obviously, being a great pass rusher is about more than putting up sacks. It’s about consistently getting after the quarterback, giving good tackles consistent fits, and yes, helping in the run game (And, yes, being surrounded by able talent). There are areas that Beasley still can improve upon in this regard.
He wasn’t perfect last year, and that’s the incredible part about his game. He’s still putting it all together. He had moments in 2016 that weren’t great, that showed a player still in progression, but he managed to still lead the league in sacks and look like one of the generational talents. The talking heads will say regression is imminent, but I’m not so sure. It wasn’t imminent for Mack, for Von, for JJ. It won’t be imminent for Beasley, either.
What if he’s the best pass rusher in the NFL by the time we’re prognosticating for the 2018 season?
Why aren’t we talking about him more?
Why aren’t all of us wearing “BEASLEY JR.” on the back of our jerseys and shirseys?
Where is the overreaching hype that borders on annoyance?
Where are the puff pieces lamenting him as the next pass rushing king?
The Falcons may have the next defensive star of the NFL on its roster.
Don’t you fall for the “new shiny object” pratfall. Don’t you ignore the greatness not sliding into your mentions on a daily Falcons Twitter basis.
Don’t you forget about Beas.
With the way he’s likely to be schemed against in 2017, defensive coordinators across the NFL won’t have that luxury.