FLOWERY BRANCH — With achievement comes attention; lack of success brings the same, with more scrutiny. No one knows this better than Falcons pass-rusher Vic Beasley, who’s heard the negativity during unfulfillment and enjoyed the praise while emerging as one of the best sack masters in the NFL.
A torn labrum and a four-sack rookie season had Atlantans worried about the development of the Falcons first-round draft pick from 2015. Fourteen and a half sacks a year later has erased all doubt.
Even while leading the league in sacks (14.5) and forced fumbles (6) through 14 games, and after forcing the league to consider the second-year star as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, Beasley still must account for the manner of which his success has come.
Beasley’s 14.5 sacks have been distributed over 14 games, but not evenly. Three and a half came versus Denver in Week 5 while three more against Los Angeles two months later. Why have 45 percent of Beasley’s sacks come in just two games, and should this worry anyone?
Dwight Freeney says absolutely not.
“It just depends on the scheme and where you’re playing at, and the team you’re playing,” said Freeney. “Some teams decide that’s not their concept, that’s not what they do. They don’t double-chip, they don’t slide protection to one guy because of his stats and his success.
“Then you have other teams who say ‘No, screw this. We are going to double that man and take him out of the game.’ It just depends on who you’re playing from week to week and what they do.”
Few know this better than Freeney, who’s played in the league for 15 years and sits 17th all-time with 122.5 career sacks.
In 2002, Freeney had 13 sacks spread over 10 games. That means he didn’t get a sack in six games. He also enjoyed three two-sack games. Two years later he enjoyed a career-best 16 sacks. But he still went through seven games without pulling down a quarterback and had two games with three sacks apiece.
Sacks come in spurts, even for guys who’ve savored more success than just about anyone who has come before.
Why would teams not spend as much focus as possible on stopping such a pass-rushing threat?
“Some teams say they like to chip with the tight end on the outside,” said Freeney. “Well, if you’re [Rob] Gronkowski and the Patriots, you’re not going to do that because you’re a 12 [Personnel] team. It just depends on who you’re playing.
“Now yes, he [Beasley] will get some attention based on success to a certain level. If we play all teams that say ‘Hey, we’ve got to load him up,’ then yes he’s going to get double-chipped and he’s going to have to have his head on a swivel; he’s going to have to figure out ways to get out of it. But it just depends on the guy. Not everybody gets that attention on who they play.”
To answer the question on whether worry should set in about the ebbs and flows of Beasley’s sacks… Don’t. Von Miller, who’s second this season with 13.5 sacks, has two games with three sacks each (Week 2 vs. Indianapolis and Week 11 vs. Kansas City). That means 44 percent of his sacks have come in two games.
When J.J. Watt led the league last season with 17.5 sacks, 31 percent came in two games. Two years ago when Justin Houston nabbed 22 sacks, seven (32 percent) came in just two games.
Enjoy the fact that Beasley’s emerging, and take some pride that he’s leading the NFL right now. Forget how many sacks he’s getting per game and when.