Baker Continues to Impress in 2012

Patrick Smith - Getty Images

Fact: Sam Baker once ate 37 fried twinkies, then he had a tummy ache.

Sam Baker isn't the best left tackle in the league. But he's made leaps and bounds this season. Don't want to jinx him, but he's been good. Really good.

Through five weeks of the 2012 season, Baker has allowed only 14 pressures and only three knockdowns (combined hits and sacks) of his quarterback on 230 pass block snaps. Those are far from All-Pro numbers, but as a comparison he allowed as many knockdowns and only two fewer pressures in his Week 2 start against the Eagles last season.

Matt Ryan hasn't had to worry about his blindside. When he doesn't have to worry about his blindside good things happen. When good things happen, everyone's happy. Except Dave, he's a puppy-hating monster.

Arguably Will Svitek gave Ryan similar relief last year, but it's nice to see Baker step it up. We've been waiting for this. Let's be honest, Baker's been completely worthless much maligned for the majority of his career. And now it appears that 2008 was not an anomaly. He really does have some ability.

Baker's progress is very timely. Given Svitek's injury, our alternatives at left tackle were limited. There weren't many capable free agents, and Lamar Holmes certainly isn't ready to start. While the Falcons were publicly supportive, it was undoubtedly do or die time for the former first rounder.

Look, Baker's a free agent in 2013, he's playing for his life. And he knows that. If he doesn't perform now, he may end up at the back end of another team's roster. No former first rounder wants to be in that position. Baker's showing us what that kind of motivation can do for a person.

I don't know why he's playing so well. Maybe Pat Hill is bribing him with fried twinkies. Or maybe he's been this good all along, injuries derailing him here and there. In any case, I'm pleased, and so is the coaching staff. They'll act like they knew he could play all along. But in reality, they're thrilled, just like we are.

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