Looking at the list of the top pass rushers in the league this season, it appears to be a young man's game.
But John Abraham, at 34, has spent the last few years proving it doesn't have to be that way. Tony Gonzalez, at 36, is doing the same thing, but you should read about that here.
The active leader in sacks in the league (118) is once again among the league leaders and is off to his hottest start since 2008, when he set the Falcons single-season franchise record for sacks with 16.5. On his current pace this season, he's set to break that record, but that's getting way ahead of things.
Abraham's six sacks this season is tied for fourth in the league. He's tied with five other players whose average age is 24. Dallas' DeMarcus Ware is 30 and he's the second-oldest behind Abraham in the top four. Although he's older than many guys rushing the passer or players trying to protect their QBs, he's still playing at a very high level.
His three sacks on Sunday against the Raiders doubled his total for the season, but he's been bringing the pressure all year. He's got seven QB hits with three forced fumbles, two of which came on sacks. Additionally he's shown he's still able to get into the backfield for reasons other than taking down the quarterback; his seven tackles for loss is also a team high.
Against the Raiders, Abraham faced a young backup tackle in Willie Smith and a more-experienced left tackle in Jared Veldheer, who many consider a solid young prospect. Abraham switched around from the left to the right, consistently putting pressure on Raiders QB Carson Palmer. Armed with the knowledge that Smith would be in the game, the defensive end felt good about his chances.
"We studied a lot of film going into this game," Abraham said. "I felt like I could have a big day; they had a younger tackle who I knew I could rattle early."
Two of the missions of Mike Nolan this season have been to get Abraham one-on-one opportunities and keep him fresh for later in the games. In man-to-man matchups, Abraham can still be as dominant as any player in the league. He got some of those looks against Oakland and no disrespect to anyone, but he feels in those situations he's going to win.
"I try to look at everybody the same," Abraham said of playing younger players versus more talented and experienced opponents. "A lot of times I get chipped from running backs or tight ends. I just hope I get some one-on-ones. If I get an opportunity to go one-on-one, I know I can get there. I don't look down on anybody. I feel like I can beat anybody."
When Abraham gets rolling, he's a big part of Falcons wins. In his career, he's got 26 multi-sack games. In those situations, his teams (the Jets as well as the Falcons) have a 20-6 record. With the Falcons in multi-sack games, the franchise is 12-2.
Abraham's six sacks accounts for just less than half of the Falcons' 13 on the season. One of Nolan's goals for the second half of the season when the Falcons return from their bye in Week 8 is to find pressure from sources other than Abraham. Sean Weatherspoon's three sacks rank second on the team. If other Falcons can't get to the QB, Abraham will see less and less of the one-on-ones he's looking for.