In recent media around Atlanta there has been a lot of talk about whether Beasley is more bust than the All-Pro, Sack champion of his second year. When you look accross his stat line this year, it is understandable to ask the question, Where is Vic Beasley? To this point all he has is 2 tackles and 1 assist. That’s pretty much non-existent. Personally, I am a stats guy, but before I take any stat on the surface, you have to see the context of the stats. Film doesn’t lie, and it often tells us things we cannot see in stats. Looking at Beasley, he falls into this category. Not everything someone does on the field shows up on paper, so lets take a look at some of these key area’s and why against Philly and Carolina, it isn’t surprising to see him off the stat sheet when he’s doing his job properly.
Case #1 : Match up & Responsibilities
First, let’s take a look at each of the Falcons 1st two opponents. Philadelphia and Carolina both run their own variations of RPO’s. Both teams have mobile QB’s who are athletic enough to make teams stay honest to the QB. This is harder on an end as they can have multiple responsibilities on these plays. First responsibility is the QB, and this smart scheming slows down Beasley as he must watch for the hand-off. He has to be patient as he will also be responsible for the cut back lane and edge in the run game if the QB hands off while watching the QB for the keeper. Also, when it comes to Carolina, keeping Cam in the pocket is key and not always sacks. Beasley did a great job containing Cam, and Carolina avoided running towards his side. I counted 1 in the first half, and Beasley blew it up just lacked the backup. Beasley forced the runner back 8 yards to before making that turn up field.
Case #2 : Injuries
Quinn early in the year stated he did not want to use Beasley at LB. While that for the most part is true, Beasley is still seeing about 15% of his plays in a more LB role where he is standing at the line or dropping in coverage. The SLB spot isn’t always glamorous, but Beasley holds up well on the edge. This has also required him to take on spying duties typically assigned to Jones or Neal given his familiarity with Cam
Case #3 : Missing Stats
One thing about DE is sacks aren’t always the final stat for a DE. It matters and getting home is key, but it is more key on a team level than individual level. In the NFL today plays are designed to get the ball out the QB’s hands quickly. Pressures and hits that force errant and incomplete passes are also key. Most offensive coordinators in the NFL build their plays on timing which QB’s and WR’s work through all off-season. Any disruption in this timing can help the defense as a whole even if it doesn’t provide a stat (or give it to a teammate like below).
Case #4 : Film Study
One thing that becomes clear when you are watching the film of the Falcons first two games is that the pocket QB’s throw from is much cleaner when Beasley isn’t on the field. He isn’t getting home with a lot of sacks, but he is forcing QB’s up into a muddy pocket. His speed off the line in many cases takes away five step drops for QB’s with his speed on the edge. Counting the first two games, Beasley is managing pressure on 20% of his snaps (this includes running plays).
At the end of the day, the fans want to see the sacks and finishing the play. This is an understandable feeling, but one we must properly set our expectations. This defense is designed to attack multiple ways and create pressure through multiple means. So why are we not seeing more results on the stat sheet? Multiple reasons, whether it is the fact he’s not finishing, the fact we don’t regularly view pressure stats, the fact our memories cant keep track of all the details available on film, or simply we don’t have the proper statistics for measuring defensive linemen, all skew our view of the responsibility of the DE. Beasley is having an impact on this team and is helping to anchor a good DL rotation. However, if Beasley wants to go back to the All-Pro level, some of these pressures need to convert to hits and ultimately sacks or better yet strip sack. If the Falcons want to make another Super Bowl run, they will need all the production they can get from Beasley