Falcons edge Vic Beasley was on top of the world in 2016. He led the league with 15.5 sacks that year, blowing all our socks off in the process. We gushed over Beasley’s potential and lost sight of the periphery (e.g., his historically weak pressure rates) because 15.5 sacks is a lot of sacks. But then all kinds of weird stuff happened in that year’s aftermath.
The Falcons moved Beasley from LEO to SAM in 2017. It was a move born out of necessity, even if the team didn’t want to say it at the time. They talked about SAM providing more opportunities for Beasley to play in space, as if the move was solely for his benefit. In reality the team wasn’t content with their options at SAM and threw Beasley in the mix.
We heard a lot about Beasley moving back to LEO during the off-season and preseason. We hoped and prayed he and Takk McKinley would be a formidable duo in 2018. That’s not been the case. Takk has held up his end of the bargain. Beasley, however, has regressed and it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel for him. Tonight’s game could be a turning point for Beasley because the Giants offensive line isn’t very good. Pro Football Focus writer Brent Rollin sees it as a critical game for Beasley. (And here’s how he describes it.)
Even in his great 2016 season, his 13.9 pass-rush win percentage ranked 43rd among qualifying edge defenders, and that number has decreased to 11.7 percent in 2018 (46th among edge defenders). NFL tackles have been able to sit on Beasley’s speed rush, frequently push him past the pocket [...] Beasley needs to find some of his 2016 magic, or Atlanta might be seeing their playoff hopes fade away. Beasley & Co. take on the New York Giants, who rank 29th in pass-blocking efficiency through six weeks, in Week 7 — a much-needed opportunity for Beasley to bounce back.
Beasley finds himself in an unenviable position going forward. He has some job security because the Falcons picked up his fifth year option in April. In other words, not too long ago, the Falcons thought he could be worth $10+ million/year. He’s in line for a huge raise in 2019. (Not including his prorated signing bonus, Beasley will make $2.4 million this season. If he’s on the roster at the start of the 2019 league year, his 2019 salary, $12.8 million, becomes fully guaranteed.) Beasley is a likeable guy, and he’s a good face for the franchise, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s forcing the Falcons to strongly consider going in a different direction.
Beasley doesn’t have to fix whatever is ailing him in a single game. He’s still 26 years old and his first step is one of the best in the NFL. But tonight he needs to take a step in the right direction. Tonight matters for Beasley. A lot.