Vic Beasley back full-time at defensive end for Falcons
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Vic Beasley had a season to mostly forget last year.
Now that the Atlanta Falcons have put him back full-time at defensive end, he’s looking to regain the form that made him the NFL sacks leader two years ago.
Beasley, though, isn’t making big promises in the second week of training camp. As much as he wants to get back to the top, he says the best approach is to stay humble, fill his role and let everything else work itself out.
“I know the guys have a lot of faith in me and the coaches do also, so we’re just going to go out there and give our best effort and do what we can to get where we want to be,” Beasley said Wednesday.
The Falcons had solid results last season under first-year defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel. They improved 17 spots to a No. 9 ranking in points allowed. They were among the top 10 in total yards, yards rushing, red zone percentage and scoring.
But Beasley was a small part of the story. He had just five sacks, 10 1/25 fewer than during his first season under coach Dan Quinn, and he wanted to produce more.
Moving to outside linebacker on 30 percent of the snaps didn’t help. Beasley dropped some weight to play the new position and he ran so much in coverage and in defending the run that his energy level sometimes lagged when he lined up at end. He didn’t have the same explosiveness coming out of his stance and beating blocks.
“He was always a nickel defensive end,” Quinn said. “We played almost 70 percent of our snaps in nickel, but in the base one, due to injuries, that’s why we moved him there. He was there a little bit by necessity, and sometimes that’s the best thing to do. For us it was in this case.”
Not anymore. Quinn wants to unleash Beasley exclusively at end with Takk McKinley starting on the opposite side after a promising rookie season.
“That’s where he’s best,” Quinn said, “playing defensive end all the time.”
Beasley took some pointers Wednesday from former Falcons ends Patrick Kerney and Chuck Smith, who combined for 141 NFL sacks. He got two different perspectives in technique. Kerney played long and rangy. Smith was more compact. Both gave Beasley a few ideas about timing, footwork and hand placement.
Beasley gets daily suggestions from his position coach Bryant Young, the former San Francisco star tackle who finished a 14-year career in 2007 with 89 1/2 sacks.
Young believes Beasley’s time at linebacker will benefit him long-term because it’s made him better against the run.
“He’s a very strong individual, plays with good technique, and I think a lot of times he doesn’t get credit for his run game, which is really important in this league as well,” Young said. “The big, pretty numbers are in the sacks, and we understand that, but it’s also important that you stop the run.”
Beasley is eager to show what he can do. He played end exclusively throughout his career before last year.
“As a linebacker you normally drop into coverage and you dial up blitzes every now and then, but as a defensive end you’re pretty much a straight-ahead guy,” Beasley said. “Just get after the quarterback.”