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Minus Insurance Policy, Falcons Need Sam Baker to Step Up

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Murphy's law has struck the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line in the worst possible way with the team announcing that backup LT Will Svitek will miss the 2012 season with an 'upper arm injury'. At first glance it's easy to be dismissive of the injury as simply a backup getting hurt, but get inside the offensive line situation and you'll quickly see that this could be a defining moment for the Falcons' hopes this year.

That statement seems fraught with hyperbole, and a 'sky is falling' mentality, but it's the case when Atlanta are still waiting for the light to come on for Sam Baker, who has been serviceable, but not elite. Make no mistakes, Baker is still the best man for the job, and is the most complete LT the Falcons have, but Svitek was a stalwart veteran pass blocker, who could always be relied on as the proverbial 'finger in the dam' when things went awry.

Roughly a month ago the folks over at Pro Football Focus looked at three years worth of data on offensive tackles, and to this end Sam Baker was rated the 7th worst offensive tackle in the NFL in allowing pressure. In those three years he gave up 19 sacks, 18 hits, and 78 QB pressures for a total of 115. This means that on average Baker allowed a pressure once every 11.4 snaps, which for a pass heavy team like Atlanta could mean 3-4 pressures per game.

It's possible that everything will come together, but perhaps that's more hope than actuality. With Svitek out for the year the Falcons will need to find a veteran backup, which becomes their #1 priority. There might be some good options when cuts hit in just over a week, but even then it will take time to integrate a new offensive lineman into the organization, and get them up to speed. If there's a saving grace it's that the injury is happening now, and not week one– but that's not exactly something to hang your hat on.

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Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.