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Vic Beasley, who led the NFL in sacks last season with 15.5, started at strongside linebacker against the New York Jets on Sunday.

He moved fluidly when dropping into pass coverage in the base defense. He also moved to defensive end in obvious passing situations and in the team’s nickel package.

The Falcons have been working with Beasley since cheap authentic jerseys the offseason, but haven’t played him much in games at that position. With Duke Riley out after knee surgery, the Falcons moved De’Vondre Campbell to weakside and put Beasley at strongside linebacker in the base defense.

“We are bigger when we do that,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “Having De’Vondre (Campbell) there  (at weakside) adds that versatility to it.”

Beasley had only one tackle against the Jets, but looked fine.

“I feel like anything, the more reps that you get, you become better at it,” Beasley said. “Put the time in and stay positive with it, you become better.”

That was Beasley’s approach during his transition to a hybrid linebacker/defensive end.

In addition to the sacks, Beasley led the team with 16.5 quarterback hits and 33.5 hurries last season. Totaled with his sacks, he affected the quarterback on 65.5 plays and was named first-team All-Pro.

Beasley, who added some countermoves to his pass rush last season under the guidance of former defensive line coach Bryan Cox and future Hall of Famer Dwight Freeney.

Some players might resist the move because it could lead to fewer sack or pass-rushing opportunities.

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“I still can make plays out of that position,” Beasley said. “I’m not disturbed by it or anything by any means. I’m actually excited about the (opportunities) that I get.”

It was a work in progress for Beasley over the offseason. The hardest part was dropping into coverage.

“I’ve tried to catch on pretty quick,” Beasley said. “The opportunities that they give me, I try to take advantage of them. Now, that they feel comfortable with me playing that position, more often, I think we’ll be OK.”

Quinn expects to expand Beasley’s linebacker role.

“I would say that you can expect to see more of that,” Quinn said.

Beasley’s conversion was slowed by a hamstring injury he suffered against Green Bay on Sept. 17. He missed the next two games and returned against Miami after the bye week Oct. 15.

Beasley didn’t appear to have all of his pass-rushing speed against the Dolphins and has been rounding back into form.

He was fine against the Jets as he appeared at or near 100 percent healthy.

“He felt fine and explosive,” Quinn said. “The hamstring can take a little while to come back from. He was a little guarded with his play. Now, he’s fully equipped to not think about it. Sometimes when you have an injury and you’re healthy, but you don’t trust it to explode. You have to go through that process once you get back to let it rip.”

Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said Beasley, his college teammate at Clemson, is handling everything well.

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“He’s been good playing on the (defensive) line as well as performing at linebacker and dropping into coverage, which is what he doesn’t usually do,” Jarrett said. “He’s been doing it very well for us. He’s been doing usual Vic stuff.”

Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel also was impressed.

“We were very pleased with that, just from the stand point of (him) stepping in,” Manuel said. “He did what we asked him to do on third down and on first and second. He not only played the run, he played the pass in coverage as well.

Manuel knows that some players are not receptive to position changes or role alterations.
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“So, we take our hat off to him for doing what we asked him to do down-in and down-out,” Manuel said.

Beasley knows he’ll have to be stout against run-heavy Carolina and make the right decision when quarterback Cam Newton runs their zone-read plays.

“We are real familiar with their offense,” Beasley said. “There is a whole bunch of flying colors (deception and mis-direction).”

Beasley thought he might have to drop in coverage to help against Kelvin Benjamin, but he was traded to Buffalo on Tuesday.

“I was definitely shocked by the fact that they let (Kelvin) Benjamin go,” Beasley said. “I felt like that was their primary receiver with (Greg) Olsen being out, but we are pretty familiar with them.”

As far as the hamstring, “I’ve actually recovered real well,” Beasley said. “Things are going real good right now.”