John Abraham had one of the best years in his career last year, avoiding injury, and getting a serious snub from the Pro-Bowl committee. By far and away one of the best defensive ends in the NFL last year. Abraham had 16.5 sacks and was the driving force for the Falcons pass rush last year, collaring roughly more than half the sacks than the rest of the entire team combined (34 total sacks). He had some help from Babineaux creating havoc on his side, but had zero help in terms of disruption from the other side with Grady Jackson having 2 sacks and Jamaal Anderson having two total sacks. After fighting injury problems and so-so years as a Falcon, Abraham obviously took to Coach Smith, Coach Van Gorder’s style, and Sugar Bear Hamilton’s guidance. His run stopping ability may not be superior, but his pass rushing skills are paramount. In all likelihood, Smith and Van Gorder will give Abraham a heavy rotation with either Biermann or Davis. Smith did a good job of keeping Abraham fresh enough for him to have one of his best years in his career. A look at Abraham’s career averages as a New York Jet compared with his most recent year as a Falcon:
New York Jets (Average)
Games Started – 12; Total Tackles – 44; Sacks – 9
Falcons – 2008
Games Started – 16; Total Tackles – 38; Sacks – 16.5
Abraham’s age may be a concern, but with years of 16.5 sacks, who can argue with production. He was one of the only players to miss OTA’s (off-season training Coach Smith may have no problems with his absence, but that misses the greater point with some of the fanbase. Many feel that he should want to be there to guide this new defense to another level and help mentor many of the new guys coming into starting and playing roles. It is not evident that he doesn’t already do that, but it surely isn’t advertised or discussed if that is the case. With his age and experience, Abraham should be the heart and soul of the defense and be ready to step in to fill a huge leadership gap with 5 new starters on defense, possibly up to 7 new rookies, and 3 to 4 second year players. The departure of Milloy and Brooking created a large vacuum for leadership on and off the field. Even though he may be leading by example, he is definitely not a vocal leader and big force in the locker room that commands the team’s attention and can steer them in right direction if they go astray. Some think that Abraham should realize the opportunity he has in front of him, particularly brining in Tony Gonzalez, and seize the last best chance to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Fair Shot for Chauncey?
One of the lesser publicized transactions of the free agency period was the Falcons resigning Chauncey Davis. Even though it may have gone unnoticed in the national media market, it surely didn’t escape Falcons fans. Davis is a favorite to many fans, even though only playing when the starting defensive ends either took a breather or had an injury. There is good reason Davis is well-liked by so many fans in Atlanta. He has played in every single game since wearing a Falcons uniform after being drafted in 2005, even starting 13 games in 2006. With limited playing time, the guy just makes plays when he’s in the game. He has a nose for the football and a penchant for always coming up with a big play just when the Falcons need it (2 of his 4 sacks came in the pivotal late-season Carolina game). Davis registered 4 sacks and 38 Total Tackles in partial time on the field, which Anderson detractors are quick to point out. He has always been counted on to be a solid backup defensive end since being drafted by Jimmy Mora and has definitely made the most of the small amount of time he’s been given. A look at his career stats:
Games Played – 64; Games Started – 19; Total Tackles – 132; Sacks – 8
During negotiations it was led to believe that his agent wanted some type of guarantee that Davis would get a fair shot to win the starting defensive end spot outright. His contract represents it (4 years, $14 million). Looking purely at base salary from last year, a few players that Davis is due to earn more than: Aaron Kampman, Shaun Ellis, and Mario Williams (not total contract, just yearly average). His base salary jumped from $927,000 a year to roughly $3.5 Million. Seems high to be a pure backup. At a minimum, his contract looks to be an insurance to Abraham’s age and injury history. As mentioned in earlier posts, Dimitroff and Coach Smith want to make this the most competitive training camp, perhaps in Atlanta Falcons history. Outside of a couple of obvious locks to be starters, competition is widespread throughout the team, all the way down to the 53rd spot on the team and even potentially to the practice squad. The coaching staff obviously felt Anderson needed the competition when they resigned Davis and drafted Lawrence Sidbury Jr. Although the coaching staff promises a fair competition, Anderson will likely be given more chances to earn the spot due to his high draft status and vested interest to the Falcons.
That being said, it looks as if Davis has an amazing training camp, there’s a good possibility that #92 will finally earn the starting spot he’s been looking to achieve. The Atlanta Falcon’s new coaching staff really doesn’t give the impression of handing out starting spots simply based on draft status. That favors Davis chances.
1) Will Abraham repeat an injury-free, stellar year?
2) Is there an issue with leadership surrounding #55?
3) Do you believe that Chauncey Davis will get a fair shot at RDE?
4) What’s your opinion of the Davis resigning: good move or too much money?
Next Post Preview: How much will Biermann play? What role can Sidbury Jr. find?