The Atlanta Falcons were hoping for a superstar when they drafted former Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley Jr. No. 8 overall in the 2015 NFL draft. While Beasley showed flashes of potential during his rookie year, he also battled through a shoulder injury almost the entire seasonÂ and wound up failing to live up to the massive potential. Fortunately, the Falcons second-year player seems to have turned a corner, and heâ€™s crediting that to veteran sack-maestro Dwight Freeney.
â€śObviously having Dwight Freeney come in and help us with the pass rush definitely helped us boost our motivation to get to the quarterback,â€ť Beasley said on Fridayâ€™s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN.
Beasley added on that he has learned from Freeney “just being relentless,” while also tacking on the fact that his spin move has gone to another level as well due to the 36-year-old rusher being signed.
To start with Freeney, the guy just keeps on producing and isnâ€™t letting his age slow him down. During his 11-year career with the Indianapolis Colts, Freeney tallied an incredible 107.5 sacks with 43 forced fumbles. After two mediocre seasons with the San Diego Chargers, he came back looking to make a statement in 2015 with the Arizona Cardinals, as he played in 11 games and had eight sacks with three more forced fumbles. Then, just when youâ€™d think the 15-year veteranâ€™s career might be winding down, he already has three sacks through five games with the Falcons.
In turn, the addition of Freeney and emergence of the rest of the defensive line has helped Beasley to start to take over defensively for the Falcons. After totaling 26 combined tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, heâ€™s already matched quite a few of those numbers in five games this season. Beasley already has 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles through just five gamesÂ and is fresh off an incredible performance against the Denver Broncos in which he totaled 3.5 sacks and earned both of those forced fumbles.
Beasley has always had tremendous upside coming out of college, and now heâ€™s beginning to show that playmaking ability that Falcons fans saw when he was at Clemson. In Beasleyâ€™s final two years with the Tigers, he totaled 40 tackles for loss and 22 sacks, as well as six forced fumbles. He was a nightmare for opponents, and with him now paired up with both Freeney and Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, formerly the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, heâ€™s in a prime position to become one of the most dominant rushers in the league.
Whatâ€™s even more impressive about Beasleyâ€™s ability to rush the passer, is how heâ€™s being utilized by the Falcons now. As ESPNâ€™s Vaughn McClure pointed out, the team chose to shift Beasley from defensive end to linebacker this offseason, but linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich made it widely known that Beasleyâ€™s primary focus would still be on rushing the passer.
“The emphasis with Vic will still be pass rush,” Ulbrich said. “The emphasis will still be his nickel end stuff, will still be playing Sam as a blitzer. The majority of his meeting time will be devoted to that. The majority of his individual work pre-practice will be devoted to that. The majority of his practice reps will be devoted to that. And on Sundays, the majority of his reps will be devoted to that.
Itâ€™s pretty apparently that Beasley is getting all the pass-rush attempts that he can handle early on in the 2016 season for the Falcons.