FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Falcons head coach Mike Smith said that defensive end John Abraham, the team’s leader in sacks, will practice on Wednesday for the first time since injuring his ankle in the regular-season finale.
Abraham’s 10 sacks were easily the most among Falcons players this season, with Kroy Biermann (four sacks) ranking second. Abraham, who was injured against Tampa Bay on Dec. 30, also finished tied for third among NFL defenders with six forced fumbles.
With the Abraham news, the Falcons should enjoy an important edge, health-wise, at a critical position. On Sunday, defensive end Chris Clemons, the Seahawks’ sacks leader during the season, suffered an injury in Seattle’s wild-card win over Washington. On Monday night, NFL Network subsequently reported that Clemons tore an ACL, thus ending his season.
Prior to the Clemons-ACL news, Smith was asked about the implications of the Seahawks playing short-handed in Sunday’s divisional playoff against the Falcons.
“It means Bruce Irvin will have to step in that role,” Smith said. “He’s very similar in stature to Clemons. He had eight sacks in regular season, one (Sunday) in the ballgame. He gets up the field very similar to Chris.”
With Abraham ready to go, the Falcons could have their full contingent of starters against the Seahawks, as safety William Moore (hamstring) practiced on Saturday for the first time since getting hurt on Nov. 29. Moore missed the final four games of the regular season.
Smith said the Falcons will have “almost a full boat” of players practicing on Wednesday. A lone holdout could be reserve cornerback Christopher Owens (hamstring).
Like the Falcons, the Seahawks use a 4-3 scheme. But on Seattle’s official depth chart, it lists Red Bryant — a 6-foot-4, 323-pounder — as a starting defensive end. That’s not the usual body type for an outside pass-rusher, a position that puts a premium on speed along the edge.
Atlanta right tackle Tyson Clabo acknowledged the impact of Clemons missing Sunday’s game … but stopped short of labeling it as a big advantage.
it be a help if the guy (Clemons) with 11½ sacks doesn’t play? Well, he’s
obviously a very disruptive player, but they have guys on (the Seahawks) who can
rush the passer other than him,” Clabo said. “Any
time you have one less talented player on the football team you’re playing
against, it’s not going to hurt.”
Two weeks ago, the Seahawks reportedly worked out former Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards. In Clemons’ absence, Seattle might opt to sign Edwards, who posted eight sacks with Minnesota in 2010, but only tallied 3.5 sacks with the Falcons over the last two years (none in 2012).
FOX’s Jay Glazer recently reported the Falcons cut Edwards (back in November) following an incident in which he refused to take part in a team meeting called by Smith in the locker room. In a Glazer report, Edwards was called on three separate occasions to participate but ignored the request.
Meanwhile, the Falcons devoted one day of last week’s ‘bye’ preparation to the Seahawks. On Sunday, they heightened the process immediately after Seattle’s playoff win.
“(The extra game planning) will benefit us,” said Smith, who’s winless in three playoff games with the Falcons. “As a coaching staff … if it were a normal sequencing of a week, we would not have had the opportunity to spend time. We got an opportunity (Sunday) to jump on it again once the game ended, and we’ve got all day today where we’re not concerning ourselves with putting a game to rest. Normally, the day after a game, you’re putting that to rest in terms of grading it.
“We’re getting a jump and I think that’s one of the advantages of being a (No. 1 or 2 seed),” Smith said. “It gives you an opportunity to get a little more preparation in, especially as a staff.”