ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: John Abraham #55 and Jonathan Babineaux #95 of the Atlanta Falcons celebrate after Abraham's sack and fumble recovery against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during play at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
I can't tell you exactly how many times Abraham dropped back into coverage in 2011, much less in 2010 and before. But I can tell you that it was, by my very official count, way too often.
Brian Van Gorder's scheme called for slowing the offense at all costs, which meant almost everyone could be in coverage depending on the play. That meant John Abraham was back in coverage, Ray Edwards was back in coverage, Curtis Lofton even covered Percy Harvin on one play and I'm not sure, but Van Gorder himself might have been matched up on Calvin Johnson during the Detroit game. It wasn't always pretty.
To say it didn't work wouldn't be entirely accurate. The Falcons were masters at frustrating offenses on first and second down by swarming all over the field, cutting off short routes and nailing down opposing runners. On third down, when teams spread the field, the Falcons' already lackluster pass rush went into the toilet as they attempted to keep something similar up.
Part of the problem, of course, is that the Falcons didn't have the secondary and linebackers to comfortable contain receivers. The other half of the equation was that they didn't have the pass rush, which was at least partly a function of BVG's defensive scheming. Unless it's an emergency situation, your best pass rusher should never be dropping back to track a guy off the line of scrimmage. Even if he can't possibly get to the quarterback, he can contribute pressure and free up other pass rushers.
What I hope we're talking about when we mention a more aggressive defense is one that is capable of punishing the quarterback for holding on to the ball, and one that forces more mistakes. Putting a lot of dudes in coverage is a limiting factor, but it will never replace a good pass rush.
So let's not see John Abraham in coverage, ever again. Do you agree?