Bill Shanks

Beasley emerging as a star for Falcons

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley runs for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Vic Beasley runs for a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. AP

OK, Vic Beasley. We get the message. We are sorry for doubting you.

Most Atlanta Falcons fans were probably like me after Beasley’s first season. Skeptical. He didn’t stand out last year, barely getting noticed at all. It doesn’t take long for fans to wonder if a draft pick is a bust. People expect immediate results from highly touted rookies, and when they don’t see it, doubt sets in quickly.

On Sunday against the lowly Los Angeles Rams, Beasley had three sacks, recovered a fumble and scampered 21 yards for a touchdown. Granted, it was the Rams, who have the worst offense in the NFL, but it was still impressive.

People now actually call Beasley a ‘beast,’ which is a term of endearment for a defensive player who can consistently create havoc.

Beasley now has 13 1/2 sacks with three games to go in the regular season. He’s now tied with Von Miller of Denver for the most sacks in the NFL. You probably would have lost money on that bet. There was no way you would have put Beasley in a same sentence with Miller back in August.

Beasley had just four sacks last season, which was part of the reason for skepticism. He rarely stood out in 2015, but this season he’s hard to miss.

The Falcons have needed an enforcer, a game-changer on defense for years. You have to go back to John Abraham for the last time the Falcons had a solid defensive player opponents feared. Now, Beasley is becoming that player.

Beasley’s improvement is a main reason the Falcons no longer lag behind in the team sack category. They were last in 2015 with only 19. Now the Falcons have 28, and Beasley has almost half of that total.

This is a true indication that player development is important, and to assume a player is fully developed once he joins the NFL is dangerous. Most players need to get better. They need to be better in season two than they were in their rookie campaign. And that’s exactly what Beasley has done. He has made huge strides to become a very good NFL player.

We are seeing the development of a strong defense before our eyes. It still needs more work, more improvement. But to see Beasley emerge, the rookie linebackers (Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell) do well and the young defensive backs (Keanu Neal, Brian Poole and even Jalen Collins) produce is a great sign.

If the Falcons are going to do anything special this season, Beasley must continue to stand out. They are now dealing with injuries to Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu, their two best receivers. They can’t just count on the offense to win every game. The defense will be important in January.

What if the Falcons play the New York Giants in round one? If the season ended today, that’s who they’d face. The Giants have a great defense, which might contain Atlanta’s offense. So, having someone like Beasley get after New York quarterback Eli Manning might be essential for a playoff victory. They haven’t had that type of player the last few years.

The Falcons might still be a year away. In fact, looking ahead, if the development and progress continues, this team will be a Super Bowl contender a year from now. But Beasley is giving the Falcons a chance, which is all you can ask when a team makes the playoffs.

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