FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Falcons and Jaguars just completed an afternoon practice that was limited to special teams. There wasn’t anything particularly exciting out there, but I stumbled onto something good after the practice.
I sat down with middle linebacker Curtis Lofton to gather some stuff for our Camp Confidential segment on the Falcons that is to run next week, as well as some items for the season preview. But Lofton brought up something that I thought Atlanta fans would want to hear right away.
For those who don’t know – and I think you will soon enough – Lofton has become the unquestioned leader of the Atlanta defense. The third-year linebacker didn’t have to take part in the special teams practice, but he stood and watched the whole thing.
Then, we sat and talked about some other things, mainly Atlanta’s defense. We got to the pass rush, which is a concern for a lot of Atlanta fans. I asked Lofton why he’s confident in the pass rush, and that’s where he got very excited and emphatic.
“Over the past couple of days, Abe has looked great,’’ Lofton said.
“Abe’’ is veteran defensive end John Abraham. A lot of people thought Abraham might be on the downside of his career after he produced only 5.5 sacks last season. He had 16.5 in 2008. The Falcons certainly could have addressed the position in the offseason, but they elected not to do anything dramatic.
Coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff have said several times they believe young players Kroy Beirmann and Lawrence Sidbury are ready to emerge. They also said a big part of the reason they didn’t make any major moves at defensive end is because they believe Abraham can bounce back. They said that a film review of last season showed Abraham still was putting good pressure on quarterbacks.
That seems to be showing through on the practice field.
“I would still say that Abe is one of the best in the NFL right now,’’ Lofton said. “He just has to stay healthy and he’s going to do his thing.’’
Abraham spent part of the offseason in Florida working on his conditioning, and Lofton said the results are obvious.
“I have no idea what he did, but he’s been doing a great job in practice,’’ Lofton said. “He looks better than ever out there.’’