For those who are not aware, LT Sam Baker suffered a set back in his recovery from a back injury, that had kept him out of the Detroit Lions game. As a result he will likely miss the next 3-4 weeks according to a report from the AJC.
Now i pose the question, are the Falcons better off without him in the lineup?
Firstly let me start by saying, I don’t like seeing any player injured, however the absence of Sam Baker could well help the Falcons protect Matt Ryan. Baker started the season very poorly and was getting pushed around by Bears DE Julius Peppers, Bucs DE Adrian Clayborne and Eagles DE Trent Cole in the first three weeks of the 2011 season. His poor play, was a big reason for the Falcons’ failing to protect Matt Ryan early in the season. Although he played a little better in the following weeks, to earn himself a “C” in Blogging Dirty’s Mid-Season Grades, he still left a lot to be desired. In the run game he steadily improved improved week by week, but really lacks the athleticism and power to be a upper echelon run blocker.
Having said all of this though, the Falcons still need someone who can fill the void, for it to be of any benefit to the team. The replacement for Baker against the Lions was Will Svitek, and he will continue that role until Baker is healthy again. Svitek has been with the team for quite a few years now, where his role has been limited to mainly a 3rd tight end in goal line sets. Although he has been productive in that role and established himself as a strong run blocker, the main concern with him was always weather he had the ability to pass protect.
Against the Lions, Svitek got that opportunity to show what he could do, matched up against a good starter in Kyle Vanden Bosch, who is known for his power and bull rushing style. For the whole game Svitek held his own and did not allow a sack, however his one blemish was stepping on Matt Ryan’s ankle while protecting him, which could have had disastrous consequences, but we can let him off that considering everything is OK.
Although I am confident with Svitek’s ability to handle against power orientated defensive ends. While he has decent athleticism, it is far from elite and speed could cause him some problems. On Sunday, he will get tested to the maximum against one of the best speed based pass rushers in the NFL in Dwight Freeney.
What do you think? Are the Falcons better off without Baker?