The Arizona Cardinals finished last season with seven wins in their last nine games, and defender John Abraham hopes to help them build on that performance by aiming for at least 20 sacks in the upcoming campaign. Abraham, an outside linebacker who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in July 2013, registered 11.5 sacks last year, but he expects to improve that total significantly. In a recent interview, Abraham said that he was aiming for at least 20 quarterback sacks in the upcoming season, a number which would mark an improvement of three and a half sacks from his career high of 16.5 in 2008.
Abraham has long been a productive player in the NFL, going to five Pro Bowls during his time playing for the New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons. In fact, even in 2012 he was a disruptive force for opposing offences, recording 10 sacks before being released by the Falcons at the end of the season. The 36-year-old defender was eventually picked up by the Cardinals, although he struggled in his role as a situational defender, with no sacks through his first six games in Arizona. However, injuries to defensive stalwarts such as Lorenzo Alexander and Alex Okafor opened the door for Abraham to play a more regular role in the Cardinals defence, and he seized the opportunity, recording 11.5 sacks in the final 10 games of the season. This performance was likely a key factor in his optimistic announcement that he would aim for at least 20 sacks in the upcoming season with the Arizona Cardinals, especially since the defender will face a number of significant obstacles.
Perhaps the most important obstacle that Abraham will face in his quest for 20 sacks is the depletion of the Cardinals defensive corps, which took place over the off-season. The most prominent occurrences include interior linebacker Karlos Dansby leaving to Cleveland through free agency, Darryl Washington facing a four game suspension to start off the upcoming season, and Tyrann Mathieu still recovering from an ACL and LCL tear. When these depletions are added to the fact that strong safety Yeremiah Bell is considering retirement, the defensive unit which ranked first against the rush, and seventh overall, will likely be hard pressed to repeat last seasons indomitable performance. Furthermore, Abraham is 36 years old, meaning that questions regarding his body’s ability to sustain punishment for a full 16 game season will be questioned. These questions will likely be exacerbated by the fact that Abraham has chosen to sit out the Cardinals’ minicamp and OTAs, despite the fact that Abraham insists he is still capable of playing a full season of football.
Abraham will likely be helped in his quest by the re-emergence of linebacker Sam Acho, who has recovered from a broken fibula suffered in last season game against the New Orleans Saints. The 25-year-old linebacker, who weighs in at around 260 lbs, recorded seven sacks as a rookie in 2011 and looks to breakout this year for the Cardinals. If Acho is able to emerge as a legitimate threat for the Cardinals defence, it will undoubtedly take pressure off of Abraham, and will make his quest for 20 sacks that much easier. Although the Arizona Cardinals defender’s goal of 20 sacks has been described by analysts as a somewhat unrealistic aim, the veteran still presents a legitimate threat to top the 10 sack mark with a bit of help from the rest of the defensive unit.
Commentary by Nicholas Grabe