Former Falcons star believes Vic Beasley will continue to soar at the Super Bowl
ORLANDO, Fla. — After an underwhelming rookie season, Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley has emerged as a bona fide star during his second year in Atlanta.
A former Clemson Tiger, Beasley registered 15.5 regular-season sacks for the NFC champs — the second most by a Falcon in franchise history, behind only John Abraham’s 2008 total — and is cashing in on the potential the team saw when it made him the No. 8 overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Naturally, Beasley’s breakout year has some questioning whether 2016 will go down as an outlier or the standard. But according to the sack leader on the only other Falcons team to play in the Super Bowl, it’s a sign of things to come.
Former defensive end Lester Archambeau spent 11 seasons in the NFL, including three with the Green Bay Packers and seven with Atlanta. And in 1998, Archambeau finished with 10 sacks for the “Dirty Birds” team that lost to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
These days, Archambeau is working as a player advocate for the NFLPA. And at last week’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, Archambeau opened up about the reason behind Beasley’s newfound success.
“Coming into your own seems like such a benign, generic statement, but it really is significant, especially to a defensive player that had to adjust to the NFL,” Archambeau said. “And I don’t care where you’re drafted or how talented you are, there are certain individuals who can wake up, roll out and they can get it done.
“But there’s a maturity, a growth, that has to occur for your skill development,” he continued. “When you’re in college and you can run around everybody or overpower people, you don’t have to be that skilled. But at this next level, when everybody is big, strong and fast, you have to get skills, and he’s done that. He’s developed his skill set and become a professional and become better at what his craft actually is. And I give credit to Dan Quinn and (defensive line coach) Bryan Cox, because they’ve poured into the kid to help him get better.”
After playing his rookie season on the defensive line, Beasley moved to strongside linebacker in 2016: The returns more than speak for themselves. It’s flexibility, Archambeau said, that’s essential to any pass-rusher’s success.
“I think with the trend toward specialists, the guys who can do both aren’t as prevalent anymore,” Archambeau said. “Obviously anybody can name J.J. Watt being great, can do it all, but especially in the 4-3 defenses, where you’ve got either undersized D-ends or oversized linebackers — however you want to look at it — that are rushing, it’s different.
“There’s a lot of athleticism at that spot right now, and it’s an amazing chess game between the left tackles getting bigger and then getting smaller, and now they’ve got to deal with guys that are 250 pounds that can run 4.4,” continued Archambeau, who had 36.5 career sacks. “But the beauty, to me, in pass rush, is that it comes down to technique. And that’s what makes the difference.”
All eyes will certainly be on Beasley when New England has the ball Sunday in Super Bowl LI (FOX, 6:00 p.m. ET), and his success in making Tom Brady’s life miserable may prove to be the difference in the game. That’s a lot to ask of a 24-year-old who still hasn’t fully settled in in the NFL. But Archambeau doesn’t anticipate that nerves will be a factor for Atlanta once the ball is kicked off.
“People talk about it and they want you to be nervous and they want you to get caught up in all the hype and distraction they talk about, but look, you spend that first week at home, and it’s just normal,” Archambeau said. “You’re just doing what you’ve done the last 20 weeks. So you practice, you prepare, you study a bunch, whatever.
“By the time you get down to the Super Bowl site, the football stuff is almost all taken care of, and then it’s just like any other Sunday,” he continued. “You get butterflies in your stomach and a little bit of nerves from playing a football game, but that it was a Super Bowl didn’t matter (to me). It was still just a game.”
You can follow Sam Gardner on Twitter or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.