Atlanta Falcons: Comparing Osi Umenyiora to the Departed John Abraham

The Falcons released team sack leader John Abraham, and replaced him at defensive end with two time Super Bowl Champion, Osi Umnenyiora.  Abraham put together another great season last year with 10 sacks, and six forced fumbles despite a supporting cast that didn’t offer much support in helping him attack the quarterback.

Abraham was undisputedly the best player on the defensive line, but was cut in the offseason.  This was done to save money for the Falcons tight salary cap, and for the imminent contract extension of Matt Ryan.  However, Abraham was the only person who really got any semblance of consistent pressure on the quarterback last year.  Losing him is going to hurt, regardless of the fact that Umenyiora is replacing him.

Umenyiora was once considered one of the best pass rushers in the game, and was a key defensive force in that fearsome New York Giants defensive line that won two Super Bowls.

But can Umenyiora even match Abraham’s success last season?  Hard to say given the fact that he only had six sacks last season in limited playing time.  Umenyiora also had Jason Pierre-Paul lined up on the other side of him.  None of the remaining incumbents from the Falcons defensive line can come close to the explosive play-making ability that Pierre-Paul possess, despite the fact that he had a down year last season.

Umenyiora is now the main man on the defensive line here in Atlanta, taking Abraham’s place.  But does GM Thomas Dimitroff’s acquisition improve one of the NFL‘s worst statistical defensive lines over the last few seasons?  Umenyiora has the resume, and is a younger substitute for Abraham.  But it doesn’t appear that the defensive line is any better off than it was last year with Abraham.  In fact, the Falcons may have taken a step back.

Here is a breakdown between Abraham and Umenyiora over the last three seasons:

John Abraham Osi Umenyiora
2010: 13 sacks, 35 tackles, 2 forced fumbles 2010: 11.5 sacks, 33 tackles, 10 forced fumbles,
2011: 9.5 sacks, 25 tackles, 4 forced fumbles 2011: 9 sacks, 16 tackles, 2 forced fumbles
2012: 10 sacks, 32 tackles, 6 forced fumbles 2012: 6 sacks, 28 tackles, 2 forced fumbles

There is a clear decline in Umenyiora’s numbers over the last two seasons.  After that great 2010 season with an absurd 10 forced fumbles and an impressive 11.5 sacks, his last two seasons haven’t been nearly as impressive.  While the nine sacks looks nice in 2011, his tackles went way down as did his forced fumbles.  2012 was Umenyiora’s worst season in terms of sacks since 2006 when he also compiled a pedestrian six sacks.

This can slightly be credited to the constant platoon he was playing with Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck, often all three of them played the same end position last year, while also lining up on opposite sides of each other.  Point being, Umenyiora didn’t play full time last year. It’s going to be a transition for Umenyiora from being part of a platoon situation last year to becoming the player expected to lead the Falcons in quarterback pressures and sacks this year.

Abraham was far more consistent in his statistical output despite his 3 and a half sack drop off in 2011 from 2010.  He has averaged 11 sacks over the past three seasons, while Umenyiora has averaged 8.3.  Abe may have gotten older, but he hasn’t really lost a step statistically.  He is getting more injury prone at this point in his career (he always has been), but you cannot deny his production on the field, nor his ability to make a game changing play when the Falcons needed it.

If this move doesn’t work out, it wouldn’t be the first time Thomas Dimitroff has made mistakes regarding the defensive line during his tenure here with the draft (Peria Jerry, Corey Peters, Jamaal Anderson) and in free agency (Ray Edwards).  But there was always John Abraham to fall back on.  Not anymore.

Umenyiora is four years younger and has put together an accomplished NFL career, but with his numbers declining over the last three years, and Abraham’s remaining consistent, it begs the question: has the main force in the Falcons defensive line taken a step back due to the loss of John Abraham?  Or does Umenyiora have a resurgent year, and put up double digit sack numbers for the first time since 2010?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101.

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