Jeanna will have some comprehensive offensive line analysis for y'all tomorrow, but tonight I want to touch on a subject near and dear to my heart: Sam Baker's
awesome T-Rex arms wildly inconsistent play.
You see, once upon a time, I was the third string right tackle for my high school's freshman football squad. And that means I know
absolutely nothing about professional football a thing or two about getting it done on the field. We're going to keep this simple. Baker, my friends, isn't getting it done on the field. He just isn't. In the week 2 contest against the Rams, he looked horrible. "Horrible" may sound harsh, but it's a warranted description. Robert Quinn made him look like a pee wee reject.
Robert Quinn almost matched the heights of his Week 1 performance with a complete display that saw him gain a +7.4 grade. Sam Baker ended up on his back a number of times as Quinn’s bullrush was just too much for him to handle. He didn’t only beat him with power moves though, as Quinn displayed his whole pass rush repertoire. Quinn recorded three hits and five hurries in just 36 rushes against Baker, and added a clean-up sack and hit.
Baker's inconsistency wouldn't be so maddening under different circumstances. If he hadn't shown such measurable progress in 2012, he wouldn't be a Falcon right now. But he did, just in time to earn a new contract. And now, with that new contract in place, he's regressing at breakneck pace. One has to hope the Rams game isn't indicative of things to come, because if that's the case, Matt Ryan is in real trouble. Against the Rams, Baker looked like crap. Heck, he even made Lamar Holmes look like passable lineman.
Keep in mind, I'm not saying Baker is doing this on purpose. As you know, contracts aren't guaranteed in the NFL. Baker can quickly find himself in the unemployment queue if he keeps this up. I'm quite sure he's acutely aware of that fact, and I'm quite sure he wants to play better; though maybe on some level, there isn't the same urgency as last season. That remains to be seen, on some level. He could just be having a slow start. He could follow up a supremely mediocre first two weeks with 14 rather impressive weeks. If that happens, then I'll buy him a beer, assuming he'd let me. But for now, I'm not happy. Not at all. And I'm not the only one. In fact, at least one Falcon thinks Baker and company are "punks."
If there's any excuse to be made for Baker, it's his knee. Baker's knee was an issue all last week, and the Falcons limited him in practice accordingly. Also, in Baker's defense, Quinn is a special player - he's someone a lot of left tackles will struggle with this season.