FLOWERY BRANCH – Will Svitek will remain as the Falcons starter at left tackle. Coach Mike Smith made the depth chart change official Wednesday.
Svitek took over at left tackle when Sam Baker, who started the seasons’ first six games, missed four games with a back injury. Baker was activated for last week’s game against the Vikings but played only on special teams.
“It’s good to be at one spot,” Svitek said. “Before I moved around between the different tackle positions, a little guard, special teams, tight end. Definitely it’s an advantage playing at one spot right now.
“It’s great from a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint. Mentally I can just focus on the plays at left [tackle] and look at the different [defensive] looks that I will get. From a physical standpoint, switching sides changes your footwork. People don’t always realize that.”
Falcons coach Mike Smith said the decision was made because Baker is still not 100 percent recovered from back surgery performed during the Falcons bye week. The team previously did not reveal that Baker had surgery, his second in four seasons. Baker had a discectomy, a procedure on herniated disc material in his lower back to relieve pain in his hip, as a rookie.
“Will has been very consistent over the last four to five ball games,” Smith said. “I think we have done some things schematically to help us. I think our protections have helped us improve. The arrow has been going up. It’s much better than at the start of the season.”
Svitek has faced stiff competition protecting quarterback Matt Ryan’s blindside over the past five games. He has not allowed a sack despite going up against Detroit’s Kyle Vanden Bosch, Indianapolis’ Dwight Freeney, New Orleans’ Will Smith, Tennessee’s Jason Jones and Minnesota’s Jared Allen.
“It’s a big responsibility, just like every position on the line,” Svitek said. “You take a lot of pride in keeping Matt clean. It’s a challenge every week and I try to do my best. … It’s definitely been a crazy stretch. That’s the nature of the business at left tackle. Everyone seems like they have a great pass rusher.”
Svitek (6-foot-6, 308) is in this third season with the Falcons after signing as a free agent in 2009. In six seasons, including three with Kansas City, Svitek has appeared in 56 games, including 11 starts.
Baker was a first-round selection, No. 21 overall, by the Falcons in 2008. He has appeared in 45 regular-season games, including 41 starts. He started all 16 games last season. Baker was a limited participate in Wednesday’s practice.
In case you missed it, click here to read the very good piece Steve Hummer did on Svitek last month.
– Chris Vivlamore, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog