The prospects of the Atlanta Falcon defensive end group have become somewhat unpredictable as of late.
Entering last season the Falcons believed that they had one of the premier pass rushing talents in Vic Beasley, who had just finished his second professional season with 15.5 sacks. Though Beasley is still a fine player, his 2017 season was nothing short of a disappointment. His 5 sacks and one forced fumble were dramatic dips from the year before, and his tackles and tackles for loss were also down. To top it off, Pro Football Focus gave him a 55.6 grade on the season, 88th among all defensive ends.
Beasley was a statistical non-factor against the Buccaneers last year, registering just one tackle in their two contests. He had just two sacks within the division in 2017, both coming against the Carolina Panthers.
While Falcon fans likely weren’t hyped about Beasley’s 2017 campaign, his newfound running mate Takkarist McKinley inspired a lot of excitement. Drafted 26th overall out of UCLA last season, McKinnley will now be the full-time starter at left defensive end, as the previous starter Adrian Clayborn is with the New England Patriots.
McKinley likely would have been the starter anyways, given how he finished his rookie year. He had eight sacks on the season including two in the playoffs, one in each game the Falcons played.
Atlanta is thin behind McKinnley and Beasley. Brooks Reed is essentially the “sixth man” of the Falcons as the first pass rusher off the bench. Reed is a solid rotational veteran who contributed four sacks last year to the Falcons and should be in line for plenty more playing time this season with Clayborn gone.