One Falcon To Watch: Sam Baker

Every week before the Falcons game, I'll be selecting one player to keep an especially close eye on. This week, it's offensive tackle Sam Baker.

Plagued by injuries, questions about his build and a spotty track record, Sam Baker's position as the Falcon left tackle of the future is anything but certain. After he was abused by the Steelers last weekend, some fans began calling for his head.

The Falcons traded up for the right to select Baker in 2008, proclaiming their desire to draft Matt Ryan's knight early. The team was questioned on this move almost immediately, because Baker has short arms and there were concerns about his strength from the very beginning. From there, the returns have been mixed--the Falcons have seen superlative efforts from Baker, and they've seen games where he's been pushed around.

Frankly, he looked bad against the Steelers. The Falcons have drafted long-term solutions at guard and center, and Garrett Reynolds may well be our starter at right tackle by 2011. But if Baker's going to struggle, they don't have an alternative to plug in there, unless you're particularly fond of Will Svitek. I'm not.

To fend off the growing chorus of criticism, Baker will have to play well against a competent Cardinals defense today. He'll have to avoid being pushed back. He'll have to display footwork that doesn't look like it's out of a middle school production of Riverdance. He'll have to prove the coaching staff's trust in him is warranted, or risk losing it.

So watch Sam Baker today, everyone.

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