Veteran CB Donnie Abraham is the veteran leader of the Jets secondary. (Sun Sentinel Photo)
The NFL is not kind to players on the wrong side of 30. Just ask New York Jets 31-year old RB Curtis Martin, who is on pace for a career-year in 2004, instead of breaking down, as originally feared. While all the accolades and media attention has swamped Martin this season, another 30 something NY Jet is off to an incredible start this year. After the season-ending knee injury to veteran CB Ray Mickens during the off-season, the secondary was in dire need of leadership. Someone needed to step up and show the youngsters how it is done. Enter Donnie Abraham. Celebrating his 31st birthday today, Abraham has taken his game to a new level this year. He has excelled in the aggressive, new defensive scheme directed by coordinator Donnie Henderson. When asked about his veteran role this season, the bearded Abraham credited the heart of the team’s young players.
“We have young guys that love to play football,” Abraham said. “(Erik) Coleman and (Derrick) Strait are playing a lot this year but when they love football, it makes it easier to be a role leader. I think that’s important. As a veteran, you want to lead by example. That’s what I’ve tried to do here.”
Abraham has been a rock in the secondary during his productive nine-year career. In his first six seasons with Tampa Bay, Abraham recorded 31 interceptions and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2000. In 2002, Abraham signed a free agent contract with the Jets. After playing in all 16 games that season, Abraham’s 2003 season was cut in half as he suffered a fractured right shoulder, suiting up for just eight games. This year, Abraham has shown flashes of his Pro Bowl ability, becoming arguably the team’s biggest playmaker. Abraham has registered 10 tackles, 1 interception and 1 fumble recovery, both returned for decisive touchdowns in Week 1 and Week 3, respectively. Head coach Herm Edwards noted Abraham’s play-making skills as one of the reasons he’s been so successful throughout his career.
"Donnie is an interceptor. His history tells you he's going to intercept passes,” Edwards said. “At the end of the day, he's going to get six interceptions for you in a year. If he's having a good year, he's going to get nine. He's a good anticipator. He can read routes, he can read formations and he's a good instinctive football player."
While Abraham is pleased with the defense’s performance this season, he emphasized that there is certainly room for improvement.
“So far, we’ve done some good things on defense,” the 5-10, 192-pounder said. “The performance has been good but we still have a long way to go. There are still some little ins and outs that we’re still learning about. But for the most part, I’m pretty comfortable with it.”
After nine years of production, it is not coincidence Abraham’s career has lasted this long. In the face of adversity, a player’s desire and commitment will be exposed, for better or worse. To hear Abraham tell it, “In the NFL, it doesn’t matter what scheme you’re in, it’s whether you make a play or don’t.” Suffice to say, Abraham has continued to step up and make plays over the years. With Abraham leading the younger troops into battle on Sundays, the arrow could only be pointing up for the future of the Jets secondary.