FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes the Falcons' excitement at having Vic Beasley Jr. back at defensive end as well as another player who didn't have fun playing in New England.
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*AJC: *Falcons excited about Beasley's return to defensive end
After leading the NFL with 15.5 sacks in 2016, Vic Beasley's sack total dipped to five last season. This reduction led many Falcons fans to worry about Beasley's future, but the team believes there's reason for optimism with their former first-round pick.
An injury to Duke Riley last season forced the Falcons to reshuffle their defense, leading to Beasley being moved to the SAM linebacker position. The move gave Beasley a greater variety of responsibilities for the defense, but it afforded him less pure pass-rushing opportunities than he might have otherwise had.
This offseason, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn confirmed Beasley will move back to defensive end full time in 2018, allowing him to focus on achieving his primary goals.
"Get more sacks," Beasley told D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Everybody likes getting more sacks, right? Make more plays in the backfield. Getting deflections, that's what it boils down to, being a relentless defense and a strong front four."
Having Beasley at just one position should make him a more dangerous threat off the edge, and pairing him with Takkarist McKinley, who is fresh off a strong rookie debut, should give the Falcons a strong pair of outside pass-rushers.
The Falcons have made great strides defensively over the past two seasons, and defensive line coach Bryant Young believes Beasley's move back to defensive end could make another positive impact for this surging unit.
"It frees him up to play more first- or second-down nickel and be available in that way and be fresher during the course of the game," Young told Ledbetter. "Not that he couldn't handle it because I thought he did a good job of handling the (strongside) and playing defensive end. Just having him available to play more reps at defensive end will be good for us."
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San Francisco Chronicle: Cassius Marsh hated playing for the Patriots
This offseason, the joy of playing football for the New England Patriots has come into question. Former Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh is the latest player to speak out against the way things are done in New England.
"They don't have fun there. There's nothing fun about it. There's nothing happy about it. I didn't enjoy any of my time there, you know what I'm saying?" Marsh told the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch. "It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much."
Marsh, who was acquired by the Patriots from Seattle in September, was asked to do a variety of things he wasn't comfortable with while in New England, leading to some of the displeasure he had while with the organization.
"They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done: covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer, which is what I did in playing defensive line," Marsh said. "I confronted [Belichick] about all the things that were going on. I won't get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. I just wasn't a fan. And so I, basically, without asking to get cut, I kind of asked to get cut."
The San Francisco 49ers signed Marsh to a two-year, $7.7 million contract extension in February. Since heading out West, Marsh says he's enjoying football and life much more.
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