Abraham planning to make a difference

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Abraham planning to make a difference

Postby BirdBrain » Fri Aug 11, 2006 5:22 am

By Mark Bradley | Thursday, August 10, 2006, 05:58 PM

Flowery Branch — John Abraham plays right end. On defense, that’s the glamour position. A quarterback has the best chance to make a big offensive play because he touches the ball every down. A right end has the best chance to make a big defensive play because he can touch the quarterback — assuming he’s right-handed, which most are — from his blind side.

Most defenders will pay lip service to the importance of stopping the run. Abraham skips over that part, saying, “If you can’t stop the run, there’s no reason for anyone ever to pass on you.” But let’s assume this season’s Falcons will stop the run better than last season’s. That done, what commodity propels a defense to the summit?

Big plays.

John Abraham makes big plays.

In six pro seasons, he has 53-1/2 sacks and has induced 19 fumbles. (See what happens when you hit a quarterback when he’s not looking?) Abraham’s arrival in Flowery Branch has passed largely without notice, but when the Falcons start playing — that comes tonight against New England — he’ll become rather more apparent.

About those fumbles: “I learned as I got older. When you’re young, you care more about getting sacks. But I have more opportunity [to force fumbles] than anyone because I’m the right end. Getting the sack is fine, but forcing a fumble is bigger.”

In a difference-making position, Abraham plans to make a difference. Three times a Pro Bowler, Abraham arrives at something approaching a career apex. He’s 28. He wanted to play here partly because it’s close to home — he’s from Timmonsville, S.C. — but mostly because the Pro Bowler wants to sniff a championship.

In Abraham’s six seasons in New York, the Jets won one AFC East title and a total of two playoff games. (They were 4-12 last year, a time in which Abraham said he “learned to focus on my football, not wins and losses.”) In his last season at South Carolina, the Gamecocks were 0-11. When you’re as good a player as he is, you don’t want to be known as the All-Pro who never found the right team.

His new employer, Abraham said, “has everything it needs already. This defense can be the top defense in the NFL — top five, easy.”

Certainly this defense has the makings of a front four. Rod Coleman just played in the Pro Bowl. Patrick Kerney, the left end, has 48-1/2 sacks over the last five seasons, and already Abraham senses a wager a-brewing. “[Kerney is] such a competitor. He’s going to be mad if I have more sacks than he does, and I’m going to be mad if he has seven and I have five and I have to get my grind on. I had something like that [a side bet] with Shaun [Ellis, the Jets’ other defensive end] last year.”

For the record, Abraham won by eight sacks. That was about the only positive memory he takes from his final year in New York, although playing for the Jets scarcely qualifies. Abraham lived on Long Island to be close to the Jets’ practice facility, and when it came time to play a “home” date in New Jersey, logistics made it seem “like a road game. You had to get on the bus and get through the traffic. It’d take three hours to get back. It’ll be a lot easier here — there’s less traffic.”

That’s correct. Abraham stands as the first transplanted Atlantan not to feel nonplussed by the local road conditions. Indeed, nothing about his relocation has given him cause to reconsider. When he talks to his friends around the league, “Nobody’s said I made a bad choice [coming here]. I’m going to be close to home. Every game’s going to be a home game.”

And the team? The difference-maker has this immediate goal: “Nothing less than the Super Bowl. It may be a little too early to say that, but that’s how my heart feels, and I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. We’ve got the potential — which is the worst word in the book, by the way — and if we go 12-4, 13-3, against our schedule, there’s no way we can’t win the championship.”

A Falcons player for not quite five months, John Abraham believes he has found the right team. The Falcons seem certain they’ve found a right end.

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