Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South: No. 21, John Abraham

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterJune 29, 2012

John Abraham led the Falcons with 9.5 sacks in 2012.
John Abraham led the Falcons with 9.5 sacks in 2012.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Welcome back to “Counting Down the Top 25 Players in the NFC South.” To see the entire list as it unfolds, scroll down to the bottom of this page. To see the rules and ranking criteria, click here.


21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

John Abraham led both the NFC South and the Atlanta Falcons with 9.5 sacks last season, his sixth with the Falcons and 12th in the NFL. He also hit the quarterback eight times and on 40 accounts hurried opposing passers.

Abraham did all of this while playing just 343 pass-rush snaps last year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Head coach Mike Smith not only instituted a defensive line rotation, but limited Abraham’s snaps to keep him fresh throughout the season. The team will limit his snaps once again in 2012, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Abraham’s high production on a limited snap count means the Falcons are getting a lot for their money. He re-signed with Atlanta in the offseason, ensuring that the team would not drop off in its pass rush. But Abraham said he didn’t sign for the money or for accolades—it was because of his relationship with new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Nolan was with the Jets when New York drafted Abraham.

“That was one of my main reasons for coming back also,” Abraham told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I know what kind of coach he is. I know what kind of guy he is. They do a great job of bringing people around who have great character and are great coaches.”

Nolan plans to change the way Atlanta rushes the passer, and that could greatly benefit Abraham. He has 58.5 sacks since joining Atlanta in 2006. An improved pass rush—and improved pass-rushing numbers from Abraham—will likely follow in 2012.

Nolan and Abraham are both proof that they’ll succeed.


The 2012 Bleacher Report Top 25 Players in the NFC South List

21. John Abraham, DE, Atlanta Falcons

22. Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina Panthers

23. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

24. Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints

25. Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Top 25 List (by team)

Atlanta Falcons:  1

Carolina Panthers: 1

New Orleans Saints: 1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2


Top 25 List (by position)

QB: 1

LB: 1

DE: 3