LOS ANGELES — Remember the complaints, largely emanating from those wearing Bulldog boxer shorts, that the Falcons made a mistake drafting Vic Beasley over Todd Gurley?
Remember the continuing angst carrying over after Beasley’s unimpressive rookie season when he failed to register a tackle in this year’s opening loss against Tampa Bay?
The Falcons flattened the Los Angeles Rams 42-14 on Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum. It was an ugly game for anybody who pushed for the NFL’s return to L.A. But Beasley was a star. He had three sacks, giving him a team-leading 13½, after getting only four in his rookie season. He also had a forced fumble, recovery and a 21-yard return for a touchdown.
For more on the game, click here to go to my full column on the game on MyAJC.com.
While Gurley continues to struggle this season and the former Georgia running back said the Rams “looked like a middle school offense out there,” Beasley has turned into a beast. He had sacks in the first, second and third quarters. Two of his sacks came one-handed, as he was fending off blockers. He’s even better with two hands.
His sack, strip, fumble recovery and return for a touchdown in the third quarter made it 42-0, as Rams fans went searching for blindfolds.
Sack totals can be misleading. But not enough can be said about the individual effort Beasley gave Sunday and the extent to which he is turning into one of the league’s best pass rushers. He also seems to be playing with better instincts, with things coming more naturally — not having to think as much.
“I would definitely say I was doing more thinking last year,” he said. “It’s just having experience in the league. The more games I’ve played, the more comfortable I’ve gotten. Now I feel like I’m coming into who I am. I’m building a lot of confidence. You can see it in my game.”
As for the one-handed sacks, Beasley said, “As a defensive player, it’s just having the mentality of being able to make that play, not waiting on somebody else to do something. It’s having the mindset of making the play all the time. Just trying to be relentless.”
Nobody is happier about Beasley’s development than Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who came from the defensive side of the ball in Seattle, used to coach pass rushers and had major input in selecting Beasley in his first Falcons’ draft.
“A lot of it comes from his work in practice, but he also has a real awareness for the ball,” Quinn said. “When you can get to the quarterback like that and you’re always reaching for the ball, that’s all about awareness.”
Meanwhile, Gurley has fallen off significantly. He had a strong rookie season, averaging 85 yards per game and 4.8 per carry but he was limited to 61 in Sunday’s game (just over his season pace) and is averaging less than 3.3 per carry. It would be unfair to put all of the Rams’ struggles on Gurley, especially given the struggles at quarterback and the offensive line, but his game has taken a step back.
Beasley has gone in the other direction.
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