Falcons hope a healthy Baker can protect Ryan’s back


After drafting quarterback Matt Ryan with the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff made a bold move to get back into the first round to protect Ryan’s blind side.

It wasn’t Dimitroff’s biggest splash, but at points last year, it looked like one of his worst moves.

But after being benched and moved inside, left tackle Sam Baker’s hoping for a bounce-back season. He’s had another back surgery (after a mid-season procedure last year) and said he feels well enough to deliver now.

“Man, it was just tough,” Baker told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just to come out after the lockout and not knowing where your body was at, and then just kind of getting thrown into it.

“I had a couple of terrible games early on, and that really didn’t help either. Then, having some back issues again, it was really, mentally, it was just a roller coaster.”

That coaster was more down that up, as Baker looked awful at points. When he returned, he stayed behind career backup Will Svitek, and looked shaky in his short look at guard. The Falcons didn’t add significant parts to a line that struggled, meaning they’re counting on big improvement from Baker. He has all the incentive to improve, as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

“This is an important year for Sam, as we all know,” Dimitroff said. “I have confidence that Sam is going to come back and be a good left tackle for us.”

He better be, or having a franchise quarterback, a flashy set of receivers and an expensive trio of cornerbacks won’t matter all that much, to a team with regular season success but no playoff wins under the current administration.