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Falcons hope Abraham will have help rushing QB in '12

A full-on pursuit of Mario Williams would have been the sexy move for the Atlanta Falcons this offseason, but Arthur Blank instead opted for comfort.

A byproduct of this strategy meant bringing back John Abraham to continue to be the team's primary pass rusher. The defensive end returned to Falcons on a three-year, $16.72 million contract, peanuts when compared to the six years and $96 million Williams got from the Buffalo Bills.

Abraham will turn 34 next month, but Falcons coach Mike Smith believes the veteran still has plenty left in the tank.

"John has been our most productive pass-rusher since we've been here," Smith said, according to "Chronologically, his age may say one thing, but his body says another. John will still command how they're going to block him and that's going to open other options for (new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan) and what we want to do schematically."

Abraham has proven over his career that he will produce on the field. The next question becomes will the Falcons have players who can get the job down with him. Defensive end Ray Edwards struggled in his first season with Atlanta, and the team will expect more than the 3.5 sacks he put up in 2011. Smith also expects bigger contributions from rotation players Kroy Biermann and Lawrence Sidbury and defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux.

The Falcons had 33 sacks last season, putting them in the bottom third of production in that category. The league average for sacks was 37.1.

"You don't want to have just one guy that's getting all the production," Smith said. "You want other defensive linemen and linebackers being productive pass-rushers. If you look at Coach Nolan's 14 years as a defensive coordinator, he's been one of the most productive on third down. You want to have a scheme that puts added pressure on the quarterback on third downs."

Blank and the Falcons' decision-makers put their faith in the current parts on the roster. We'll find it out if that patience is rewarded.

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