Falcons defensive player to watch: John Abraham, defensive end


John Abraham (center) and fellow Falcons defenders celebrate a play (Gregory Bull/The Associated Press)

How he beats you: Even at age 34 and in his 13th NFL season, Abraham remains among the league’s better pass rushers. He has three sacks in four games this season, after a 9-1/2-sack season last year and a 13-sack performance in 2010. He also has forced two fumbles in four games this season.

“He’s still got it,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said.

Abraham has speed and skill as a pass rusher. And the Falcons accentuate his abilities by lining him up at different spots along the defensive line to keep an offense guessing.

“They flip-flop,” Williams said. “They do a lot of unorthodox alignments. They walk a lot of guys around.”

How to stop him: The Redskins have the ability to keep any defense off balance. They have the league’s top-ranked rushing offense to complement the passing of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. They also have used a variety of offensive approaches and formations that include spread-offense alignments and pistol formations borrowed from the college game. They also run more conventional NFL setups that feature the running of rookie tailback Alfred Morris behind the zone-blocking concepts always favored by Mike Shanahan-coached teams.

Griffin’s speed and elusiveness help against any pass rush. But mostly, the Redskins’ ability to deal with Abraham will depend on the health and play of Williams, their top offensive lineman. He played the entire game last Sunday in Tampa after missing practice time during the week with a bone bruise on his right knee. The Redskins hope he’s feeling closer to 100 percent for this game.

“You’ve got to be disciplined,” Williams said of facing Abraham. “He’s technically sound. He’ll take advantage of you.”

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.

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Mark Maske · October 4, 2012