Vic Beasley searches for his pass-rushing groove



He has just three sacks in past 17 games

For Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley, the bye week came at a great time.

“I caught a glimpse of some games, but for the most part I just relaxed,” Beasley said. “It was much needed in the middle of the season. We are ready to go finish the season strong.”

With the Falcons looking for help on their injury-ravaged defense, Beasley wishes that he was doing more to help out. If he went on a sack rampage perhaps the unit would not be as exposed to yielding so many yards.

But teams know they Falcons are without three key starters and for two games, were without four starters.

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“My production is not what I want, but I’m working hard,” Beasley said. “I’m practicing hard and playing hard.”

Over the Falcons’ 3-4 start, Beasley has played 351 of the defensive snaps (72.8 percent), but has just one sack, seven tackles, one tackle for loss and three quarterback hits.

Over his past 17 games, including the playoffs, Beasley has only three sacks. In April, the Falcons picked up his $14.2 million fifth-year option.

Despite moving him back to defensive end, the Falcons, who face the Redskins (5-2) at 1 p.m. Sunday at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., have continued to drop him in coverage when needed. Beasley had 15.5 sacks to lead the league in 2016. He had five last season.

Beasley has been close on some sacks, but the Falcons hope those close calls turn into production over the second half of the season.

“We have to continue to be opportunistic and hope that things go my way,” Beasley said. “But still as long as the team is winning, I’m excited and happy.”

Falcons defensive line coach Bryant Young, who’s on the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame ballot, is charged with helping Beasley, who needs to develop a counter move to couple with his speed rushes.

“A guy like him, a 4.5 (40-yard dash) guy who can really get off the spot and speed around the edge, it would be great to have something that’s a change-up,” Young told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “That’s been his go-to, his off the edge speed and winning off the corner. That always keeps people honest when you can change it up a little bit.”

Back in 2016, Beasley was working with future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney, the master of the spin move.

“He hasn’t done a whole lot of it,” Young said. “That could be something that he look to do moving forward. You don’t want guys to just over play you and just really setting on your speed and play you that way.”

In the NFL trenches, defensive linemen must use their hands to get keep the offensive linemen from grabbing them and locking them up. If Beasley doesn’t win with his speed, he’s getting locked up at times.

“For all of us, this game is a hand-game,” Young said. “It’s not just about speed. You can have all the speed in the world, but if you don’t have good hand usage, be able to get off blocks and be violent with your hands on your rush moves, it can hurt you. Definitely being able to incorporate his hands on his rushes would be beneficial to him.”

The Falcons have also moved Beasley around some and have played him along side Takkarist McKinley is certain situations. With two speedsters rushing alongside of one another, the guard usually has a bad matchup.

“It’s a change-up,” Young said. “It allows them to work together and work some matchups in that way. We don’t get to it a whole lot, but when we do, I like to see it be as effective as it can be.”

Beasley is searching for more ways to get to the quarterback.

“Yeah maybe I could throw that in there a little bit,” Beasley said of his spin move. “Any counter would be beneficial depending on the call and when I know I can use it. I rarely used the spin, it’s not really my thing. I do bring it out every now and then.”

Despite getting just three sacks over his past 17 games (including the playoffs), Beasley doesn’t believe that teams are just playing him to speed rush.

» More: Falcons depth chart against Redskins

“I think they’ve got good game plans,” Beasley said. “A lot of times, I’ve missed a couple of plays, too. Had one taken away from me. I just have to remain optimistic. I’m playing well, but I just have to continue to go harder.”

Beasley knows a counter move, be it a spin move or something else, would be helpful.

“A counter could work,” Beasley said. “Just the sequence of games, our defense and the plays that we run kind of limit me from doing certain things, but for the most part, when I have the opportunity I can try to use those.”

Beasley likes when he plays next to McKinley. “We are real creative when we put me and Takk on the same side,” Beasley said. “We have a number of different games that we can show different things up front. We have some guys in the middle in Jack (Crawford) and Grady (Jarrett) who have been playing pretty well so far.”

McKinley has 5.5 sacks and eight quarterback hits. The Falcons were hopeful that Beasley and McKinley would turn into a formidable rushing tandem.

“I think we can be better,” McKinley said. “I feel like we can be a lot better and that’s pretty much all that I’m going to say on it.”

Getting sacks against Washington quarterback Alex Smith is going to be tough. The Redskins have allowed just 22 sacks, which is the eighth fewest of 32 teams in league. The Falcons have just 14 sacks, which is 28th in the NFL.

Washington had a shot at Beasley in the 2015 draft, but selected offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, who’s now their starting right guard, with the fifth overall pick. Beasley went three picks later, eighth overall, and two picks before the Rams selected running back Todd Gurley.

"He stresses the tackles out because he so fast," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "The tackles have to get out of their stance and get up and work on their protection. He does good with the tackle-end games and line stunts."

Beasley looks forward to going against Washington tackles Morgan Moses and Ty Nsekhe. Trent Williams is out after having thumb surgery.

“They are very athletic,” Beasley said. “Everybody knows Trent, he’s one of the best tackles in the league. … They want to get their hands on you and try to clamp you down. ... This week, we’ve been working on our hand movements and trying to disengage ourselves from the tackles.”