Falcons still high on Abraham

Still working my way through the tape recorder and notebook after last week’s owners meeting in Orlando. Just came across some interesting stuff from Atlanta’s Mike Smith that came up during the NFC coaches breakfast.

We all know that the pass rush was an area where the Falcons struggled last season and they probably will address it in the draft. But it sure doesn’t sound like the Falcons aren’t anywhere near ready to give up on John Abraham. He had 16.5 sacks in 2008, but that number dropped to 5.5 last season.

I asked Smith for his assessment of what happened.

“His numbers were not nearly as good last season,’’ Smith said. “We watched the tape and spent time evaluating him. We felt like John still had some very effective rushes. The sacks just did not come last season. You can look at it historically. John has gone through and had a down year every third or fourth year and he has bounced back. We really anticipate that he will bounce back. We watched and analyzed everything very closely. His hurries and pressures were high. We missed some pressure up the middle when Peria Jerry went down in Week 2. [Jerry] was coming along and we felt like he could win some one-on-ones. What ended up happening was peopled turned the protections to John and we weren’t able to take advantage of the one-on-ones on the inside.’’

I also asked Smith about Jamaal Anderson. He began his career as a defensive end and never reached his potential. The Falcons moved him inside at times last year and he looked a little better at tackle. But it doesn’t sound like there’s any plan in the works to keep Anderson inside on a full-time basis.

“I thought Jamaal made big strides in terms of defensive end play in our base defense,’’ Smith said. “Then, he moved inside the majority of the time in our sub packages. That’s the plan right now to have him play left defensive end in our base package and then to move him inside in our sub package. He ended up playing about half his snaps last year reduced down in playing three technique.’’