NFL

NFL AM: Shoulder Injury Sidelines Falcons’ Vic Beasley

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Vic Beasley, the eighth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, was making quite the impact at Falcons OTA, but a strain in his shoulder has slowed the still unsigned draft choice down some.

Beasley sat out the 11-on-11 portion of Falcons OTA on Tuesday, but noted afterward that his absence from team drills was merely precautionary. The Clemson product is Atlanta’s last remaining unsigned draft pick, but said he isn’t concerned about his contract status either as mandatory minicamp approaches.

“I’m not worried about that,” he said of his contract. “It’s all about football and being just the best that I can be and help out the team. The contract should be done here pretty soon.”

Before the shoulder strain limited his participation, Beasley had been turning heads left and right at Falcons OTAs. Originally tagged as a potential Top 5 pick, the outside linebacker tumbled a bit in the draft and fell to eighth where Atlanta, in desperate need of help getting after the quarterback, gladly snatched him up.

Beasley has fit right in since arriving in Atlanta and told reporters this week that his work with head coach Dan Quinn and linebackers coach Bryan Cox is paying immediate dividends.

“Rarely in life do you actually get an opportunity to have a head coach that works your position. It’s a blessing for me to have him, a guru, at the position. I’m just learning everything from him,” Beasley said of Quinn. “Obviously, I’ve been blessed with great speed, but DQ and Coach Cox have been helping me become more violent with my hands. You’ve got to be violent with your hands at this level to be a successful pass-rusher.”

A 2013 Consensus All-American and the 2014 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Beasley compiled 33 sacks over his four years at Clemson, including 25 over the last two years to lead the ACC in both campaigns. He also finished his college career with 52.5 tackles for loss, most for a ACC player in the last 10 years.

That production has elicited high expectations for Beasley with the Falcons, and he hasn’t shied away from them. During his first month as a member of the team, Beasley has made it clear he plans to have an instant effect on the Atlanta defense and set a double-digit sack goal for himself as a rookie.

He’s also drawn some lofty comparisons from coaches and teammates at Falcons camp. New Falcons defensive coordinator Richard Smith, formerly of the Broncos, likened Beasley to one of his pupils in Denver.

“He’s got great speed and quickness, very similar to Von Miller,” Smith told ESPN. “I’m not saying he’s a Von Miller. You’ve got to go out and earn those things. But I think if you talk to Vic, he would tell you that [Miller] is one of the players that he’s watched over the years. But he does have that elite quickness, very similar to what Von Miller had when he came out.”

Teammate Jonathan Babineaux praised Beasley’s willingness to learn, his work ethic and his skillset and the defensive lineman compared Beasley to a long-time teammate, five-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro John Abraham.

“I kind of say he has that quick first step like Abe. He doesn’t have that expertise yet as far as utilizing all his pass-rush moves, but the quick first step definitely reminds me of Abe,” Babineaux said. I’m just looking forward to getting out there on the field on Sundays with the kid.”

CHARGERS EXTEND LIUGET

A key piece of the San Diego Chargers defense got the contract extension he had been seeking, but it’s not safety Eric Weddle.

While Weddle remains without a new contract, the Chargers did make a long-term commitment to another member of their defense, signing defensive lineman Corey Liuget to a five-year contract extension reportedly worth nearly $58.5 million with $30 million guaranteed, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The 18th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Illinois, Liuget has been a boulder of consistency up front for the Chargers, playing in all but one game since being selected and starting all 16 each of the last three seasons. Though Liuget’s numbers don’t jump off the page, he’s by far the best that San Diego currently has on their defensive line. Over four seasons, he’s compiled 202 tackles, 18 sacks, 49 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles.

Liuget had just 4.5 sacks this year, but that led the team and he finished with 18 quarterback pressures and 19 tackles for loss, both also leading a San Diego squad in desperate need of more from their pass rush.

Pro Football Focus ranked Liuget in the Top 20 among 3-4 defensive ends in pass rush rating. He also ranks as one of the Top 25 3-4 ends in the league according to PFF. He graded out negatively against the run, but the 25-year-old has acknowledged that there’s plenty of improvements to be made in an effort to round out his game. The good faith gesture of a contract extension shows the Chargers believe he’ll continue to make progress.

“Corey is hard-work personified,” said head coach Mike McCoy said. “He will do whatever it takes to get better and help the team, and he’s still improving. There’s no limit to how good he can be. He has a lot of great football ahead.”

WILKERSON REPORTS TO JETS

Liuget hasn’t been the only defensive lineman selected in the first round of the 2011 draft seeking a contract extension this summer, and an East Coast counterpart is still without one, but reported to New York Jets camp on Tuesday anyway.

Muhammad Wilkerson arrived at Jets mandatory minicamp in New Jersey on Tuesday, electing not to holdout despite frustration with his contract status. The 30th overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Temple is in the final year of his rookie contract, set to make nearly $7 million this season, but has been seeking a long-term commitment from the team. However, Wilkerson does not plan on being a distraction to the team, and that’s why he reported.

“That was a decision that was made over the weekend with me and my agent to come in and work out with the team and get ready,” he said. “[I’m] frustrated. I thought that a deal would be made but at the end of the day it’s a business. These things take time.”

Over the first four season of his career, Wilkerson has emerged as one of the league’s best defensive ends, compiling 24.5 sacks, 237 tackles and seven forced fumbles. Last season, his sack numbers ticked down a bit from a career-high 10.5 in 2013 to six in 2014, but he still ranked as one of the best defensive ends in the league according to Pro Football Focus. Among 3-4 DE, only J.J. Watt and Wilkerson’s Jets teammate Sheldon Richardson had higher overall ratings and Wilkerson tied Richardson for the league’s best rating against the run. His play earned him Pro Football Focus second team All-Pro status last season.

Wilkerson could potentially have an even better season this year after the Jets went out and beefed up the backend of their defense this offseason by bringing back cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and adding safety Marcus Gilchrist. The coverage of that group should give the Jets trio in the trenches of Wilkerson, Richardson and Damon Harrison even more time to get after the quarterback. Working in tandem, the defensive line and revamped secondary could make New York’s defense one of the best in the NFL in 2015.

“He’s very important to our defense,” Revis told the New York Times of Wilkerson. “He’s a special player.”

New York also added a piece to their already stellar line this offseason with first round pick defensive lineman Leonard Williams (No. 6 overall), perhaps the best player in the draft. That has led to speculation that Wilkerson could be the odd man out given his contract status, but new coach Todd Bowles has said he’s looking forward to utilizing all four players to make the Jets defense as good as it can be. And the coach was pleased to see that despite his frustrations over his contract, the defensive end reported to camp well prepared.

“He knew what he was supposed to do. He had pretty good knowledge of the system, so he studied. That was good to see,” Bowles told reporters of Wilkerson. “Mo is a pro. He understands what his job is, what he has to do. He’s ready.”


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys