Falcons coaches sold Beasley on move to linebacker

In April, before the Falcons were set to start the offseason program, he met with Falcons coach Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator Richard Smith and linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich.

“We were trying to get a head start on things,” Beasley said.

The coaches wanted Beasley to consider a move to strongside linebacker after playing right end and left end last season as a rookie.

“That’s pretty much how it went,” Beasley said. “Coach Ulbrich reached out to me. He left the option up to me. I felt like I could benefit from that position. I could see myself out there.”

One key to position moves is that they are waste of time if players don’t buy into them. So the Falcons coaches did some selling, too.

They showed Beasley film cut-ups of other strongside linebackers and told him how the change would fit his skill-set.

“I kind of gave my word that I would do it,” Beasley said, but he was not totally sold.

He took some more time to ponder the move.

“Over the weekend, I was like ‘yeah, I can do this and definitely help the team out,’” Beasley said.

In the base 4-3 defense, Beasley would be the linebacker to the tight end — or strong side — of the formation. He could set the edge against the run, blitz or drop in coverage. He’s set to rush from defensive end in the Falcons’ nickel package.

Beasley, who appeared in tip-top shape after an offseason workout Wednesday, has embraced the move.

“I’ve just been working this offseason,” Beasley said. “My goal is to play at 245, and that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m right at 240 so far. I’m going to keep going until I get to about 250 because I know I’m going to lose a little bit in camp.”

The position change will force Beasley to play with more power.

“Although he’s not a big man, he’s powerful when he uses it,” Quinn said.

The Falcons played Brooks Reed and O’Brien Schofield at the strongside linebacker position last season. Reed was injured for most of the season and Schofield, was solid, but not spectacular. He hasn’t been re-signed by the team.

The Falcons also signed strongside linebacker Courtney Upshaw as a free agent.

“It’s off to a great start,” said Beasley, who was the eighth pick in the 2015 NFL draft. “I just know that it’s a new position. I played a little bit of linebacker in college, but it’s different in the league. There are more responsibilities, but I’m off to a great start with it.”

Beasley started all 16 games last season and broke the team record for most sacks by a rookie in a season (4.0) since 1982, according to NFL True Media. Beasley, who struggled at times against the run, had 27 tackles (20 solo), one interception, two forced fumbles, and two passes defensed.

In the upset of the Panthers in the 15th game of the season, Beasley recorded his second career strip-sack to close out the game.

“I think I’ll do great,” Beasley said. “I have great versatility and athletic ability that God’s blessed me with. I also played it a little bit in college, so that adds and should help.”

Beasley will still be expected to help breathe some life into the Falcons’ pass rush, which had 19 sacks last season, last in the league.

“We have great guys in place, and the guys that we brought in are definitely going to add to that,” Beasley said. “Just the relentless pursuit. You have to want to get after the quarterback. We just have to have that relentless pursuit to get after the quarterback.”

Beasley likes that he’ll move around to different positions on the defense.

“I’m pretty sure they’ll use me as a rusher and dropping back,” Beasley said. “I’ll be going back and forth. I think we are just using my abilities in different areas on the field and maximizing my gifts.”

Beasley seemed to regret his guarantee that he would finish his rookie season with “double-digit” sacks.

“I necessarily shouldn’t put a number on that,” Beasley said. “I just have to adapt to the guys around me. The guys around me are going to push me. Obviously, that’s a goal of mine, and I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”

With the position change, he doesn’t have any predictions for next season.

“Nah, I’m not going to put a number of it,” Beasley said. “I’m just going to work hard during OTAs and training camp and try to be the best that I can be.”

Quinn wants Beasley to develop his counter moves when rushing from defensive end. He needs a go-to move to accent his speed rushes around the edge.

Beasley has taken to studying film of Denver’s Von Miller, the Super Bowl 50 MVP.

“I don’t try to be exactly like him because I am my own person, but we do share a lot of similarities,” Beasley said. “I will try to mirror some of my stuff after him.”

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