Falcons moving 2015 first-rounder Vic Beasley to strong side linebacker
Beasley, the No. 8 overall pick in 2015, was drafted as a defensive end
Last year, the Atlanta Falcons made former Clemson star Vic Beasley the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. The idea was that Beasley would turn into a star pass rusher in head coach Dan Quinn's defense, scooting around the edge and beating left tackles to the quarterback in the regular. Beasley indeed played that role as a rookie, though he was only on the field for 51.3 percent of the Falcons' defensive snaps, per Football Outsiders. He finished the year with 26 tackles and four sacks.
At only 235 pounds, Beasley is relatively light for the position, and thus he struggled with his responsibilities in the running game. Atlanta ranked poorly in several of Football Outsiders' more advanced ground game measurements: 27th in Power Success (conversion rate on third and fourth downs with two or fewer yards to go); 22nd in Stuffed Percentage (percentage of runs stopped behind the line of scrimmage); and 19th in Adjusted Line Yards. They also were particularly weak against runs around left end (i.e. outside of Beasley), allowing 4.74 yards per carry.
And so the Falcons are moving Beasley (now 240 pounds with a plan to play the season at 245) to strong side linebacker, pulling him off the line of scrimmage in their base package to minimize his weaknesses at the point of attack against the run. Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the plan is still to use Beasley at end in pass rush situations and their nickel defense in order to take advantage of his speed around the edge.
Per the Journal-Constitution, Beasley said the transition is "off to a great start. I just know that it's a new position. I played a little bit of linebacker in college, but it's different in the league. There are more responsibilities, but I'm off to a great start with it."
Some of those responsibilities include dropping into coverage more often, primarily against tight ends and running backs. Atlanta was actually relatively successful against tight ends last season, ranking 6th in DVOA (Football Outsiders' Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, which adjusts performance for down, distance, and opponent). However, they struggled badly against running backs, ranking 32nd in the same stat. Beasley is confident he'll be able to help in coverage responsibilities.
"I think I'll do great," Beasley said. "I have great versatility and athletic ability that God's blessed me with. I also played it a little bit in college so that adds and should help."
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