His production hasn’t been eye-popping outside of the 2016 season, but Vic Beasley remains one of the league’s most intriguing young pass rushers. He’ll be 26 years old in July and already has one season where he has led the league in sacks, and at times his combination of speed and surprising power off the edge is simply too much for the league’s slow-footed tackles to handle.
Yet Beasley comes into the 2018 season with question marks attached to his game, and he’s being eclipsed in the hype department by fellow defensive linemen Grady Jarrett and Takk McKinley. A lot of that has to do with his relatively quiet 2017 season, when the team dabbled with having him play some linebacker. He did fine work there, and it wasn’t like they completely switched him over to another position, but it did impact the number of opportunities Beasley had to chase quarterbacks. At the end of the day, that’s what he’s here for.
We’ve already heard that the Falcons are moving Beasley back to DE full-time, which comes as a relief to just about everybody. What is also important, I think, is the real vote of confidence Beasley’s run defense gets in this article from defensive line coach Bryant Young and defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel.
The concern at defensive end is if Beasley can hold up against the run.
“He’s about 240 and 245,” Young said. “He plays with good strength. He plays with good power. People don’t realize how strong that Vic is. So, I think he’ll be OK holding his own.”
It goes without saying that this is a pivotal year for Beasley. The team exercised his fifth year option and will have him under contract in 2019, but the team has big contracts on the way for (deep breath) Grady Jarrett, De’Vondre Campbell, Deion Jones, Keanu Neal, and potentially Ricardo Allen on defense, and Beasley will want to show that he’s an elite pass rusher who deserves a massive contract from Atlanta. Thus far, he has one insanely productive season where he led the NFL in sacks, a solid but unspectacular rookie season marred by an injury, and a quiet 14 game year with some time at linebacker where he amassed just five sacks.
But the opportunity is there, and I fully expect Beasley to seize it. The Falcons have a relatively tight four man rotation at defensive end at the moment, and while they’re likely to use Brooks Reed and Derrick Shelby plenty, Beasley’s going to get a crack at playing three downs quite often. If he can improve his pass rushing a bit to go with better run defense, he’s an impact player, and I don’t think he has that far to go in either arena. As Young notes, Beasley’s a strong player, and it’s really just a matter of harnessing those tools to the fullest.
So the vote of confidence matters, is what I’m getting at, and it means Beasley should get a ton of snaps on all three downs in 2018. I’m hopeful he’ll have a career season.