Atlanta Falcons: Who is the Answer at Left Guard?
Aug 16, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) is defended by Atlanta Falcons tackle Sam Baker (72) at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Baker is a player that, at times, has looked competent at the LT position. In 2012, he played like a top pass-protecting tackle in the NFL, but since then has suffered two season-ending injuries in a row. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they signed Baker to an extravagant contract and are on the hook for a lot of guaranteed money.
…Baker played every game at USC as a left tackle after spending his redshirt year practicing as an offensive guard.
Atlanta addressed the LT position last season by picking Jake Matthews with the #6 overall pick, seemingly setting the stage to move on from Baker in 2015 or 2016. However, it appears as though the team is going to leave Baker on the roster this season. Perhaps it is because the dead money is cost prohibitive this season, or perhaps it is because they see a way to squeeze a little value out of his contract.
Could Sam Baker potentially be the answer for the Falcons at LG? Well, the answer is a mixed bag. Baker has never taken a snap at guard in the NFL. However, according to the USC Athletics website, Baker played every game at USC as a left tackle after spending his redshirt year practicing as an offensive guard. While that isn’t a whole lot of experience, Baker seems to have at least practiced as a guard at one time.
With the team switching to a zone blocking scheme under new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, there will likely be growing pains for everyone on the offensive line. Still, Baker has the skills and body type to be a successful zone scheme guard, but it is unclear if he will be able to master the intricacies of a new position any time soon.
Dan Quinn didn’t rule out the possibility of Baker competing for the starting spot at LG. In a piece by ESPN Falcons reporter Vaughn McClure, Quinn stated:
"“Well, he’s one of the guys rehabbing really hard. As he goes through it, we’re going to see when he can get healthy and get back on the field, like a number of the other guys.”"
At this point, it is difficult for fans to trust that Baker can even make it through a season in one piece. Baker was also known as more of a pass-protecting lineman than a run-blocker, which may clash with the more balanced attack the Falcons plan to implement in 2015. However, the Falcons will be trying to get some value out of his contract, whether that is as the highest-paid back-up LT in the league, or as the new starting LG.
What about another lineman on the roster, someone equally polarizing within the fan base?
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