When the Atlanta Falcons drafted Vic Beasley Jr., the pass rusher out of Clemson, at pick #8 in the 1st round in the 2015 draft; they were expecting the next edge rusher that would be a game changer on defense. At Clemson, he was considered the best edge rusher in the draft class and ended his Clemson career with 21 total sacks. It took a year as in his rookie season, as he played all 16 games but only had 4 sacks and had a minimal impact on the defense year 1.
Beasley’s 2016 campaign was the opposite of a sophomore slump, as he was the NFL total sack leader with 15.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and was 5th in defensive hurries with 30. In 2015, he played as a traditional 4-3 defensive end and in 2016, he switched to strongside linebacker (Sam) where draft scouts projected him as his best fit in a 3-4 outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense or a Sam linebacker in a 4-3 defense. His transition to his natural position has led him to be considered a candidate for defensive player of the year in 2016.
While Beasley’s impact in the playoffs has been minimal, his presence is felt when other defensive linemen get one on one matchups. Young centerpieces like Ra’Shede Hageman and Grady Jarett have been core guys that have been drafted the last 2 years and improved the run defense in the playoffs. Hageman’s game against the Packers really showed how the interior pressure got to Aaron Rodgers and it could have a similar outcome with Tom Brady. Veterans like Jonathan Babineaux, Dwight Freeney, Brooks Reed, Tyson Jackson, and Courtney Upshaw are other guys that could have contributions in pressuring Brady but the star is Vic Beasley Jr.
This could be the game Beasley plays lights out to a similar extent to what Von Miller did to Cam Newton in last year’s Super Bowl. Although Beasley had the highest sack total this season, stats showed it was a relatively low year for sacks and some may not be convinced of Beasley’s potential as an All pro edge rusher and production as a questionable one year wonder.
Beasley’s game flashes potential to not be some one year wonder but a core piece in an upgraded Falcons defense that could be dangerous against the Patriots in the Super Bowl and for years to come in Dan Quinn’s Seattle Seahawks like system on defense. In Dan Quinn’s defensive system, Beasley most reminds me of a Bruce Irvin type edge rusher that can bend the edge and get to the quarterback but may have more speed and explosion to his game and has had more production than Irvin did in Seattle.
Unlike 2015, the Patriots offensive line has been the staple and the most consistent part of the Patriots offense but Tom Brady has had a dip in production when he pressured and that has to be the memo for the Falcons defense in the Super Bowl: to pressure Brady with interior pass rush in his face, win one on one matchups on the defensive line, and get Beasley involved and get quarterback hurries/ and sacks. Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon are the 2 offensive tackles Beasley will be mostly match up against.
Both have been All-Pro caliber and have helped Brady upright during the season and the playoffs to an extent. If Beasley can win early and often, Brady could be harassed and make mistakes that the Falcons defense could take advantage of in a potential relatively high scoring Super Bowl where offenses are both well-known. In order for the young Falcons defense to stop or slow down Brady, Beasley has to lead the way and is a key x-factor not many people are talking about that can make a big impact in Super Bowl 51.
With consistent play in the Super Bowl 51 and also next season, Beasley should be talked about with the elite edge rushers and should have got more respect for the statistical season he put up this past year. With the speed and pass rushing ability Beasley has, one could consider him “lightning in a bottle” that could shock the Patriots and contribute to a Falcons Victory in Super Bowl 51.