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Will the real Vic Beasley please stand up: elite pass rusher or rotational afterthought

No, he will not magically morph into Todd Gurley.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Vic Beasley’s tenure with the Atlanta Falcons has been enigmatic, to say the least. A relatively pedestrian rookie season that elicited the dreaded echoes of bust was followed by a year in which he took up permanent residence in NFL quarterbacks’ nightmares. During his sophomore campaign Beasley amassed 15.5 sacks, leading the league in that statistic, and forced six fumbles.

It was a banner year for the young defender by any measure. But the 2017 season was a curious one.

Beasley’s move to linebacker in the wake of Duke Riley’s injury was bound to affect his pass-rush numbers, but it’s safe to say that many did not anticipate that they would fall off a cliff. He was sidelined for two games with a hamstring injury, Beasley managed to tally only five sacks, a steep decline from the previous season. With the position change, he was counted on much more in coverage during his limited snaps at linebacker, an area in which his natural speed and athleticism can allow him to excel—but a far cry from the role that caused the Falcons to select him in the draft.

Vic Beasley was taken eighth overall to maul offensive linemen and assault quarterbacks. He was picked as the first cornerstone in Dan Quinn’s defensive rebuild.

And that’s why it was welcome news when Quinn announced that Beasley would be moving back to defensive end full-time for the 2018 season.

So with the permanent switch, what can the Falcons expect from Vic Beasley this year? Replicating his herculean 2016 might be a bit of a stretch, but I’m confident that he will be, in his own words, a double-digit sacks guy.

Part of what compounded the adverse results of the linebacker experiment is that Vic was unable to refine his pass-rushing abilities. He’s shown that he has the speed and strength to be a dominant force on the edge, but the change in position robbed him of the opportunity to experience—and learn—in actual game situations. Quinn’s re-commitment to Beasley at defensive end means more chances to figure out what works and what doesn’t in the pursuit of putting quarterbacks on the ground.

2018 is the final non-option year of his rookie contract, and the Atlanta Falcons want to truly know what kind of player they have in Vic Beasley. Is he the elite pass rusher he was drafted to be, or the gifted-yet-underachieving defender that some fans fear?

The move back to defensive end could be the final determinant.

So what say you, Falcons faithful? Will Vic Beasley be a world-destroyer or just a good player in 2018?