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John Abraham Proves To Be Rush For Cards

Posted Aug 12, 2013

Veteran linebacker gives team dynamic edge pressure it hasn't had

Linebacker John Abraham played only five plays in Green Bay, but it included a strip-sack of Graham Harrell.

As he slapped the ball away from Packers quarterback Graham Harrell on Friday night – one of only five snaps he was allowed in the preseason opener – John Abraham showed why Cardinals general manager Steve Keim had wanted him.

And why the Cardinals needed him.

The Cardinals have been able to get to the quarterback at times the past few years, but they have not had a singular threat coming off the edge, that one guy for which the pass protection better account for first.

“You talking about me?” Abraham said, feigning ignorance.

It isn’t a difficult equation to decipher.

“I pride myself in doing whatever I have to do to help our team win,” Abraham said. “It’s definitely something I’ve been dealing with my whole career so it’s nothing new to me. I’m used to being by myself, I’m used to being who they harp on getting a big play when we need one, getting to the quarterback.

“Just like a cornerback is ‘The cover corner,’ you know he’s going to get you the interception. For me, I pride myself in getting to the quarterback. But it’s going to help our team. It’s going to help the other guys with (Darnell) Dockett and Calais (Campbell) and hopefully my outside linebackers, because you don’t know who is coming all the time.”

Abraham comes into the season with 122 career sacks, looking to build on his cluttered résumé. He remains officially third-string on the depth chart, behind Lorenzo Alexander and Matt Shaughnessy at Will linebacker, but that’s just paperwork. On third downs and other obvious passing situations, Abraham will be the one standing out on the end ready to attack the passer.

The Cardinals haven’t had that threat from the edge since Bertrand Berry was in his heyday in 2004, making the Pro Bowl with 14½ sacks before injuries started ending his seasons early. The other years since then the Cardinals, when they have been able to pressure consistently, have used scheme and blitzes to get the job done.

“When you don’t have (an elite rusher), you are coaching up blitzes and pressures, which is fine too,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But it’s nice to be able to play coverage and have a pass rusher that demands attention to free up some other guys.”

The sack numbers are important to Abraham, but so to was the second half of his play on Harrell. The league doesn’t have official forced fumble numbers – Stats Pass has Abraham with 44 in his career, four behind Jason Taylor, while ProFootballReference.com lists him with 46, and in both cases not all data across the league is complete –but Abraham wants to build his total.

Last year, he had seven forced fumbles to go with his 10 sacks.

“A lot of people get the sack and are happy,” Abraham said. “My big thing is I want to give my team a chance to get the ball and get the defense off the field. In my career, I’ve tried to do it as much as possible, even if it’s not a quarterback but a running back. I’m not a DB so I can’t get many interceptions but I can get (the ball) in other ways.”

Abraham doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed if he can help it. “I can still drop (into coverage) if I need to,” he said, and that’s an important factor to keep opponents guessing.

It’s probably safe to assume Abraham, at age 35, isn’t going to spend a lot of time mirroring a receiver’s route, though. That’s not why he’s here.

“You’ve got to account for him,” said linebacker Karlos Dansby, who watched teams do the same for pass rusher Cam Wake when they were teammates in Miami. “Every time you turn on the film you have to watch what this guy is doing.

“It’s a bonus for us. Allows us to do some things we normally wouldn’t do with a guy like that.”

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