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Atlanta Falcons Rookie Vic Beasley Settling Into Leo Pass-Rush Role


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Atlanta Falcons rookie Vic Beasley settling into Leo pass-rush role
Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons rookie first-round draft pick Vic Beasley knew which defensive role he felt most comfortable playing even before mandatory minicamp began this week.

"I do feel most comfortable at Leo," Beasley said, referring to the pass-rusher role. "I think it's a good position for me because I played in a four-down front in college. And I think it's just easier for me because I don't have to transition to a different position. It's pretty much the same thing for me."

Falcons coach Dan Quinn initially said Beasley could play either strongside linebacker on the tight end's side or the Leo hybrid defensive end in his 4-3 under defense that incorporates 3-4 personal tendencies. But Quinn probably just wanted to make sure Beasley settled in first before declaring him a Leo, which he did following the end of minicamp. Kroy Biermann was first up at Leo throughout the offseason, allowing Beasley to gradually shift into a flow.

So what are Quinn's expectations at the position?

"It's a guy who has speed and length, but it's an important part of the defense because the pass rush is not just one player, it's everybody working together with a four-man rush or five-man rush," Quinn said. "So the ability to have a guy you can feature and put in unique spots and then letting it rip on third down with that kind of get-off, those are the things you're looking for from the Leo spot."

Cliff Avril, at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, was the primary Leo in Seattle last season, where Quinn was the defensive coordinator. Avril played 73 percent of the defensive snaps and finished the season with 5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 6 tackles for a loss. New Falcons linebacker O'Brien Schofield is the same size as Avril and was his backup at the position last year. Schofield finished with two sacks and seven quarterback hits.

"I was very comfortable at the position," said Schofield, who is playing strongside linebacker now and rush defensive end in the nickel package. "Personally, I feel like you have to be a very versatile player to play Leo. It's a hybrid defensive end/linebacker who covers the flat, covers the ground game. There are times where you have to run all the way across the field so you have to be able to run and cover. Of course, you have to pass rush. And if you happen to go against the tight end, the expectation is that you have to set that edge. It's very important to set the edge in this defense.

"The Leo has a very strong responsibility in this defense. In the nickel defense standpoint, the Leo does a lot of stand-up rushing with the 3-technique [defensive tackle], with the nose, a lot of the blitzes. You've got to be able to stand up and rush against the guards, against the center. It's a very important piece of the nickel package."

Beasley, listed at 6-3 and 235 pounds, no doubt needs to put on a little more weight. And he realizes there are questions about his ability to play the run, an element of his game he vowed to improve.

First and foremost, the Falcons need Beasley to get after the quarterback and help improve one of the league's weakest pass rushes. Minicamp confirmed he has the speed and athleticism to create havoc on a consistent basis.

Quinn was pleased with Beasley's overall performance but pointed to improvement in general terms.

"For all the rookies, and Vic included, there's a couple of plays still where there's hesitation," Quinn said. "That's what we're going to try and eliminate. Keep repping those guys. With he and the rest of the rookie class, the work ethic has been outstanding. Then, can we keep detailing their positions? [Then] they can get to the very root of how they want to play."

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From the article:

...."Cliff Avril, at 6-foot-3 and 260 pounds, was the primary Leo in Seattle last season, where Quinn was the defensive coordinator. Avril played 73 percent of the defensive snaps and finished the season with 5 sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 6 tackles for a loss. New Falcons linebacker O'Brien Schofield is the same size as Avril and was his backup at the position last year. Schofield finished with two sacks and seven quarterback hits.

"I was very comfortable at the position," said Schofield, who is playing strongside linebacker now and rush defensive end in the nickel package."

I'm somewhat surprised that Atlanta has switched Schofield from Leo to SLB. I suppose that Shembo's release has something to do with the change. Perhaps it also could be that Atlanta feels that Beasley and Schofield are the team's best edge rushers, and want to have both of them on the field together at different positions in pass-rush situations..

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I like Schofield at SLB and opposite Beasley on passing downs. Reed/Biermann can set the edge on 1st and 2nd down.

JAX LEO's last year

Clemons-6-3, 254, 8 sacks

Davis-6-2, 260, 6.5 sacks(2012 UDFA-PS/12, 1 sack/13)

Smith-6-1, 266, 3 sacks(Rookie)

I see Beasley capable of 8-10+ sacks like 254 pound Clemons. If Biermann can post 6.5+ sacks like UDFA Davis in the system we are golden. Would not need Starr or Maponga or Goodman to pitch in 3-ish but it would not be unappreciated.

17.5 sacks from that position and Clemons is older while the other two are depth players. I think Beastley will live up to his name and draft position and Biermann is every bit as capable of 6.5 sacks as Ryan Davis if not more.

Their UT had 8.5, could Hageman be capable of that? Talent wise yes, and that is pretty exciting.

We play JAX this year and they have built a pretty solid roster. Michael Bennett should have a good rookie year for them.

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I thought Beasley weighed in @ 246lbs @ the combine!

Beasley did weigh 246 and the combine and was still able to display blazing speed at the added weight. From an article:

"Clemson end Vic Beasley seems likely to move to outside linebacker at the next level, and he blazed to a 4.53 40, the fastest among the linemen. Mayock said Beasley -- who is 6-3 and weighed in at 246 pounds, 11 more than he was listed during the season -- "wins with outside speed" but also is able to convert that speed to power, which is a special trait."

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000473225/article/vic-beasley-dante-fowler-jr-blaze-to-impressive-combine-40s

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I'm still shocked we got him at #8.......

I am too, especially after Beasley's combine performance. I am still shocked that the Redskins went Offensive Lineman, rather than Beasley, especially after they just lost Orakpo in free agency.

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