The Atlanta Falcons again tinkered with Vic Beasley's position this offseason, moving the pass rusher back to defensive end full time after using him as a linebacker. Both the coaches and Beasley are excited about the position reversal.
"It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game," defensive line coach Bryant Young said last week, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Not that he couldn't handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the [strongside] and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us."
Playing more linebacker in 2017, Beasley's sack numbers dipped from a league-high 15.5 in 2016 to five last year.
"I wasn't rushing as much as I normally would," Beasley said. "There were less opportunities, but it was for the betterment of the team and what the team needed most at that moment. I was fine with that."
The Falcons' best pass rusher playing any significant amount in coverage seemed like a faulty plan last season. The move back to defensive end full time should allow the Falcons to keep their best quarterback menace on the field more.
According to NextGen Stats, Beasley played more than seven fewer snaps per game in 2017 than his sack-filled 2016 campaign. Most of those snaps came in obvious run situations; Beasley played on fewer than 10 run plays in the Falcons' final six games of the season, including two postseason tilts.
Young dismissed the notion Beasley's move back to defensive end could weaken the Falcons' run defense.
"He's about 240 and 245," Young said. "He plays with good strength. He plays with good power. People don't realize how strong that Vic is. So, I think he'll be OK holding his own."
The Falcons' defense surged down the stretch last season when Beasley spent more time as a pass rusher than working in space. With a linebacker group of Deion Jones, Duke Riley and De'Vondre Campbell, moving the team's best pass rusher back to DE was a logical move for Dan Quinn.