The Falcons made a calculated gamble in the 2018 offseason. Instead of adding significant resources to either of the lines, Atlanta banked on significant improvement from the 2017 draft class and a return-to-form from several injured starters. Some of those moves worked out OK: Jack Crawford had a very good season after recovering from a season-ending injury. Takk McKinley had a strong start to the year before the injuries piled up around him. Wes Schweitzer proved that he’s, at worst, a capable backup—which is pretty impressive for a sixth round pick.
Unfortunately, the big ticket players the Falcons were depending on failed to come through. Andy Levitre played poorly to start the season before aggravating his injury and returning to IR. Ryan Schraeder proved that his down 2017 wasn’t just a product of poor guard play, ending the 2018 season on the bench behind Ty Sambrailo.
But the one guy that the Falcons absolutely needed to come through was Vic Beasley. Quinn’s defense relies on rushing 4 and getting pressure so that the aggressive secondary can make plays. Beasley repaid that dependence by completely disappearing, putting together an utterly forgettable 2018 season that will likely end his career in Atlanta.
What, exactly, do you do here?
Beasley’s stats pretty much tell the story of how ineffective he was. Sure, his 5.0 sacks aren’t exactly nothing, but when you see that he only managed 8 QB hits all season, you’ll understand that those sacks were mostly anomalous. Beasley’s bread-and-butter, his speed rush, is good—but opposing teams had seen it for three seasons. You have to add a counter move to be successful long-term in the NFL, and Beasley has failed to do so over four seasons.
What about his play as a run defender? Well, in summary, it was downright awful. Beasley is a very poor tackler, putting together only 20 combined tackles over sixteen games. That is abysmal for someone who is on the field as much as he was. We all saw plenty of highlight reel runs which featured a RB simply bouncing off Beasley’s poor tackling attempt. I’m not sure if it’s a lack of strength, poor technique, or simply not caring—Vic simply doesn’t tackle well.
That’s a shame, because although Beasley doesn’t appear to have a future as anything more than a situational pass rusher in the NFL, I have long thought he could’ve been an excellent SAM LB. Beasley is very athletic, and honestly he looks pretty natural in coverage against TEs. His burst, bend, and speed would all be huge in a stand-up LB role. However, as mentioned above: Beasley cannot tackle. And guess what? You can’t play LB if you can’t tackle.
Where does Beasley go from here?
Some NFL team will definitely give Beasley a $3-4M one-year deal to see if they can salvage something from him. Despite his poor play over two seasons, he did have that great—anomalous, but still great—2016 season where he posted an incredible 15.5 sacks. Heck, I wouldn’t even have a big problem if the Falcons were to do that—maybe the pressure of that deal would unlock something mentally, and I think that’s a reasonable cap hit to trade for his “potential”. But Atlanta simply can’t keep Beasley at his $12.9M fifth-year option, even if it means that they may lose him to another team in free agency.
It’s really quite sad that things have come to this with Beasley. He’s genuinely a very nice person and I don’t have anything negative to say about him off-the-field. I sincerely hope he finds a way to get his career together, even if it isn’t in Atlanta. But in the NFL, what you do on-the-field is by far the most important thing.
2018 was Beasley’s big chance to prove that he was indeed capable of carrying the load as a premier pass rusher. Heck, it was his chance to prove that he was anything more than just a third or fourth EDGE that functions as a situational pass rusher. Instead, Beasley failed to show any improvement to his game as a pass rusher or run defender.
What do you think, Falcons fans? Was Vic Beasley the biggest let down of the 2018 season? If not, who do you think it was? Do you see the Falcons bringing back Beasley, either at his fifth-year option or on a more modest one-year “prove-it” deal?