Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham injured his left ankle in the last game of the regular season versus the Tampa Bay Bucs. It has been assumed since he practiced in a limited basis earlier this week that he would be fine to play against the Seahawks. Jason LaCanfora reported yesterday that Abraham will, indeed, play despite being listed as questionable on the official injury report. More importantly, the indications are that Abraham will be playing at far less than 100% health. Abraham is instrumental to that Falcons defense. So much so that him playing injured could have a bigger impact on the outcome than the Seahawks Chris Clemons missing the game.
Abraham is the only significant pass rusher. The Falcons get pressure with blitzes from a variety of players, but any team would prefer to rely on four lineman to bring pressure. However, like Clemons, the larger impact will be in the run defense. Abraham is already an undersized rush end who would have trouble setting the edge against either of the Seahawks tackles. Trying to accomplish that feat with a bad ankle is going to be really tough. Heath Evans, of the NFL Network, made this point on Atlanta sports radio yesterday, and that was before Abraham was listed as questionable on the injury report.
Further, the Seahawks have been running this thing called the read option you may have heard of. It requires a lot of discipline and speed from the defensive ends. It also demands quick lateral movement as the end has to hold the edge against the quarterback before diving into the line after the running back, or vice versa. That change of direction will be especially tough with a badly sprained ankle.
Maybe this will end up being nothing. That is what I assumed after Abraham practiced early in the week. Knowing that Abraham was limited all the way through Friday’s practice, that there are real questions about whether he will play, and the report from LaCanfora that he will play despite the injury, sure makes it seem like there is blood in the water there.