Atlanta Falcons: Who is the Answer at Left Guard?

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Aug 8, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice, center, talks with members of the offensive line including; Atlanta Falcons center James Stone (62) Atlanta Falcons center Joe Hawley (61) and Atlanta Falcons guard Harland Gunn (69) before their game against the Miami Dolphins at the Georgia Dome. The Falcons won 16-10. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons came into the 2015 offseason with serious holes to fill on defense and at the tight end position. In an effort to clear additional salary cap space and because of poor scheme fit, the Falcons cut longtime left guard Justin Blalock. This left the team with a dangerous vacancy on an offensive line that had just begun to gel towards the end of the 2014 season.

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The Falcons offensive line was ravaged by injuries in 2014, losing OT Sam Baker, OT Lamar Holmes, C Joe Hawley, and C Peter Konz to season-ending injuries. Atlanta had so many different combinations of players on the offensive line that it resembled a game of musical chairs. It all culminated in the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings, where the Falcons actually ran out of reserve linemen and were forced to play TE Levine Toilolo at right tackle.

To give Toilolo credit, he wasn’t the worst RT in history. But that game still gives me nightmares to this day. The Falcons’ bread and butter is their offense, and without competent offensive line play the team won’t find much success in 2015. Which makes finding Blalock’s successor at LG incredibly important if the team hopes for a quick turnaround this year. Also, keeping Matt Ryan alive is just a wise move for the franchise.

The Atlanta Falcons brought in Mike Person and Jared Smith in free agency and they could compete for the starting position

But how will the team fill that position this offseason? The Falcons could look to promote from within, with several players having the potential to take over or at least provide a decent stop-gap option. Atlanta also brought in two players in free agency, Mike Person and Jared Smith, who could compete for the starting position. Finally, the team could look to the NFL draft, where there are several intriguing prospects in the early-to-mid rounds.

Let’s take a closer look at the Falcons options, starting with a polarizing player among fans, Sam Baker.

Next: Sam Baker