Posted: 7:32 pm Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Left tackle Sam Baker is off to a strong start 

By D. Orlando Ledbetter

Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice talks with players during Atlanta Falcons OTAs in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, May 28, 2014.  (By Kent D. Johnson/kjohnson@ajc.com)

Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice talks with players during Atlanta Falcons OTAs in Flowery Branch, Wednesday, May 28, 2014. (By Kent D. Johnson/kjohnson@ajc.com)

FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons left tackle Sam Baker is off to a strong start after recovering from right knee surgery over the offseason.

Some of the other players coming back from injuries — wide receiver Julio Jones and defensive end Kroy Biermann — are on limited practice schedules.

Not Baker.

“I’m feeling good,” Baker said.

He’s adjusting to this third offensive line coach. The Falcons had Paul Boudreau from 2008-2010. He was replaced by Pat Hill and Paul Dunn. After Hill and Dunn were fired over the offseason, the Falcons hired Mike Tice to coach the offensive line.

Tice’s offensive line assistant is Wade Harman.

“It’s good to have coach (Mike) Tice and all of the stuff that he’s brought,” Baker said. “Installing this time was a lot more efficient just because we knew the techniques that he wanted to use.”

Tice has revamped the blocking scheme, although the offensive line won’t be allowed to cut-block in practice when they wear pads on Monday for the first time in camp.

“All of the stuff, the looks and the speed with which we want to do things is there right now,” Baker said. “Just because we had the OTAs with him already, we understand what he wants. It’s only going to improve each day.”

Baker is elated to be back playing next to left guard Justin Blalock.

“He’s my best friend on this team,” Baker said. “It’s awesome having him right next to me. We’ve seen a lot of stuff together. It’s awesome having him right next to me.”

Some still contend that Baker will eventually make way for rookie Jake Matthews at left tackle and that he’ll end his career at right tackle. For now, Baker plans to hold down the left tackle spot and help out Matthews. Baker was listed on Grantland.com’s All-Bad Contracts Team.

Offensive Tackle: Sam Baker, Falcons
Contract Flaw: Ever Fallen in Love With a Player You Shouldn’t Have?

Having repeatedly seen Baker struggle with both his health and his performance as a pass blocker in the left tackle role he had been drafted to fill, the Falcons found themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place last offseason. They had few options at offensive tackle and limited salary-cap space to work with, but Baker just wasn’t athletic or reliable enough to play left tackle. Instead of moving on, Atlanta compromised and gave Baker a six-year, $41 million contract with $14.3 million guaranteed. One year later, Baker has proven yet again that he’s not a quality left tackle, which led Atlanta to use its first-round pick this year on Jake Matthews. He’ll be Matt Ryan’s left tackle sooner rather than later, while Baker will become one of the more expensive right tackles in football.

“He’s a phenomenal player,” said Baker of Matthews. “He’s got all of the ability in the world. The NFL is a big step, but he’s got all of the tools to do it. He’s sped up the learning curve like I’ve never seen. He’s a special player, you can tell.”

Tice hasn’t been easy on Baker or the rookie either.

“He’s got his own philosophies,” Baker said. “He doesn’t care how we did it last year, he wants it done his way.”

8 comments
ftputt
ftputt

Well, maybe he's hoping things pan out.  How's Lamar Holmes looking is the question?  He's who matters, cause when Baker gets hurt, he's stepping in.

WaltBBall
WaltBBall

I was a lil upset when Sam got that ridiculous contract, a few eyebrows raised on that one.  I hope Matthews is as impressive as he sounds because he needs to start and be the protector of our 20 mil QB's blind side. Last season and this one will take care of the guaranteed monies are most of it and if Baker is not productive (preferably as a RT) then the FALCONS need to say goodbye at the end of the season.  Teams will be making salary dumps and trades because of need, hopefully the FALCONS may be able to pull something off before the season starts.

I don't see any reason to risk Matty Ice on a Sam Baker maybe, especially since Matthews is so talented and if his talent is superior to Bakers in camp then the decision should not be hard to make.  Smitty can't shuck around he best make the right protection call.  I like the offensive line putting on more muscle and will play a lil more aggressive at least that's the hope.  Hawley is a bull at the C and the guards are solid so this could be a great year for S. Jackson.

The offense is talented even with the retirement of Tony G.  Protect Matty and give Jackson a good crack and it's on.  A three wide receiver set and Matty gets time to LQQK and see and the FALCONS passing game will be pitch and catch all day.  Last season was a monumental crush for the average fan so diehards are still feeling the pain.  Excuses are not acceptable and Mr. Blank has let it be known as to what he expects.  A good owner is hard to find and one found the FALCONS.

The defense will have its own story to tell because last season they were really swiss cheese, holes everywhere.  Ra'Shede is a nightmare on paper, I hope he can be a bad dream in reality.  Tommy D. and Smitty need to solve that ILB prob and add depth.  The secondary could be nightmarish if the lineman can generate a pass rush.  Monday is pad time and in 6 weeks its on.  I LQQK for a FALCON team that is hungry for more than a playoff win.  GO FALCONS!!!!!!!!!!!!

tmc
tmc

I have absolutely no disire to hear anything about Sam Baker's start... we've heard this just about every year.

How about finishing a season? How about performing anything close to what the team is paying you?


And as far as the team goes, how's it feel to give Sam Baker a huge (horrible) contract and then have him go down early and not have him on the field? you don't give a guy who can't stay on the field because of injuries and big contract and gaurenteed money... That is what quickly kills your cap.

They are paying Baker 6 million this year, his @ss better be on the field producing this year! 


ReggieTheMailman
ReggieTheMailman

They not even wearing pads yet....a strong start in shorts and a shirt? Cmon D.Led we done with the moral victories here.

DarlaLewis
DarlaLewis

You have to be durable in this league to get respect.....

Quackmeyer
Quackmeyer

@ftputt ' If Lamar Holmes is the one who matters', the Falcons are in deep, deep trouble.