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Falcons vs. Lions: Sam Baker quietly anchors protection

Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has been quiet this season, but that has helped him play up to expectations as a first-round draft pick from 2008.

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Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Sam Baker has struggled the last couple of years with injuries. This prevented him from living up to the expectations that came with being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. This season, Baker has been playing better and may have had his best game in Sunday's 34-0 win over the New York Giants.

According to the advanced stats from Pro Football Focus, Baker was the highest rated offensive lineman for the Falcons against the Giants. He gave up only one quarterback hurry against the likes of Giants defensive linemen Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. His stats on PFF has seen him graded positively in the last three games and only scored worse than -1.0 twice, compared to four times in nine games last season.

Head coach Mike Smith believes the fact that he's been healthy for a full season has helped Baker be able to protect quarterback Matt Ryan, via the team's official website:

"He's been as healthy as he's ever been. He spent a whole lot of time in the offseason working on getting his body feeling right. He had some things that he had to really work on and he did a really nice job. It's paid off for him. He's protecting our backs very well."

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