Atlanta Falcons: Time to Panic at Left Tackle?

Begins and Ends at Crucial Spot

Is Svitek Getting Overlooked? (AJC)

Optimism has reigned throughout Falcons fandom with the beginning of off-season, including OTA’s and mini-camp. A buzz has started to rumble with all the new additions, new schemes, new coaches, and all the players saying how good the Falcons look already and it’s only June. Roddy White has said that this is the best he’s seen the last four years. The confidence in players, coaches, and fans alike is very genuine and is getting the masses excited already. There lies one messy and bitter spoiler and everyone knows exactly what it can be: the catastrophic potential at left tackle.

Despite all the optimism and confidence it all begins, ends, and rests with the left tackles ability to protect Matt Ryan. Many believe that left tackle is the second most important position on a football team behind the QB and it’s hard to argue with so many teams drafting franchise left tackles in the top 5 of almost every recent draft. Teams will also pull out all the stops to acquire a left tackle if they need one, paying them whatever they want in free agency or even giving up first round picks. Thomas Dimitroff thought he may have had his own after trading up to get Sam Baker, but that’s looking less and less true every game that’s played and every season that goes by. Dimitroff, Smith, and Co. evidently feel comfortable at what they have at left tackle, but fans surely don’t share that hope and belief. A look at the prospects (or lack thereof):

Can He Really Do It? – Sam Baker

There’s been no more Falcon that has been more criticized and harangued by fans and media alike than one Mr. Baker. Many call him an outright bust, but that’s not entirely fair. He was a part of two offensive lines (2009 and 2010) where he never missed a start and, in particular in 2010 when he played left tackle on a team that went 13-3 and snagged the #1 seed in the NFC. That offensive line helped send 5 offensive skill players (White, Ryan, Gonzalez, Turner, & Mughelli) to the Pro Bowl. To say he’s an outright 1st round bust is a little harsh.

However, Baker has proven to be anything but a franchise left tackle for the Falcons. Both his rookie year and especially last year was marred by injuries, inconsistency, but above all poor play. Injuries are surely a part of the game and many times they can’t be helped, but if Baker was that injured last year, he should have just been shelved for the year on injured reserve.

Can Baker Get it Done? (AJC)

Baker came back and looked downright awful, being so bad that he gave way to backup Will Svitek. They even tried the former USC Trojan at right guard and he looked even worse at that spot. Injuries can only be used for so long and for blame for so long. Baker has been a walking infirmary with at least 5-6 different types of injuries or issues.

It appears that Mike Smith and Dimitroff are committed to giving Baker one last chance to get back some of the form of he exhibited in 2009 and 2010, but you have to think that this is it. Some fans already feel that Baker will “win” the job and that it won’t even be a truly fair competition. Smith has promised an open competition all along the offensive line, but there’s a feeling that it will just be the same old, same old and that Smith will pick who he wants instead of who’s necessarily best (same goes for Todd McClure at center). You would have to think that if Baker somehow doesn’t win the battle for left tackle than he and his nearly $3 million dollar cap hit would be cut loose. Entirely too much for a backup OL. Chances of Winning LT Job – 50%

Perennial Backup to Starter? – Will Svitek

The former Kansas City Chief has been a solid backup since joining the Falcons a few years to go. Svitek became more than a backup last year when he took over for Baker after an injury and held off Baker for the job when he returned (not a difficult task). The Czech Republic native actually played defensive end and tight end while at Stanford before making the conversion to offensive tackle. Svitek’s been a formidable backup and was pretty solid for the most part last year.

Although Svitek is a good backup, he’s surely not a franchise left tackle. He turned 30 in January and there’s a reason you have starters and backups. He’s a very good backup and can deal with the mediocre and poor defensive ends, but when he runs up against the elite pass-rushers, he struggles. The former Stanford Cardinal actually is somewhat of a forgotten man when most media discuss the left tackle spot. They talk about Baker almost exclusively as the weak position on the Falcons roster.

Even though most think that Smith’s favoritism towards Baker will yield him the winner, Svitek very well could be the stop-gap the Falcons need to see what they have in 3rd round draft pick Lamar Holmes. The good news for Svitek, unlike Baker, is that if he doesn’t win the starting job, he has a much better chance of making the roster as a backup. Chances of Winning Spot – 40%

Can Rookie Shock the World? – Lamar Holmes

After the initial shock of hearing Holmes name called as the Falcons 3rd round draft pick, many fans have come around to at least tolerating the pick. Some still believe it was an enormous reach and he could have been had around the 5th round or later. Holmes surely has all the measurables to be a franchise left tackle (6’6, 323, huge hands and wingspan) and it’s hard to criticize Dimitroff for infusing the offensive line with talent after fans have been clamoring for it for years. Holmes is admittedly a project, but he definitely has the right attitude.

Can Holmes Do Unthinkable? (AP)

He has talked a lot about coming in and “taking someone’s job and spot” and that he’s not going in to make friends.” He said he took the same approach when he went from a junior college to Southern Mississippi and eventually to captain of the team as a senior. The Falcons scouts also reportedly were happy with Holmes excellent work ethic and progress from his junior to senior year. It’s probably not unheard of a 3rd round draft pick coming in and starting left tackle right off the bat, but not for a team hoping to achieve their ultimate goals in that very season.

A 3rd round pick starting at guard, right tackle, or even center is much more realistic, but left tackle is hard to imagine. Throw in the fact that Holmes is suffering from a foot injury and has yet to participate in OTA’s or mini-camp and you get the feeling that any tiny possibility of him grabbing the starting spot went out the window. Holmes definitely projects to left tackle, but looking at 2013 or later seems to make more sense. Hopefully, he’ll get some reps this year, but in terms of starting, it’s next to impossible. The problem many fans have is that there’s a chance that there will be two 3rd round OL draft picks (including Mike Johnson) not in the starting rotation. Chance of Starting – 5%

A Free Agent – Marcus McNeil, etc.

Thomas Dimitroff has gone out of his way to say that he is completely happy with the Falcons roster and that fans shouldn’t expect any other names to be added. It appears they are content with Baker and Svitek battling it out at left tackle for 2012. To be honest, that statement will likely hold true. However, Marcus McNeil’s name is still a free agent and his name keeps popping up from various media members thinking that the Falcons will bring in a proven, but injured player to add competition if nothing else. There’s always a chance that some names will be available when cuts come down, but teams just don’t let go of franchise tackles. Theoretically, it could happen, but with Dimitroff passing on a ton of tackles with potential during free agency (Anthony Collins, Demetrius Bell, etc), it’s very unlikely that he’ll do it during camp. Chance of a Free Agent Starting – 5%

New Coach, New Scheme = Needed Fix?

Even though former OL coach Paul Boudreau had a ton of success early on, he didn’t do an adequate job of developing talent and wasn’t able to plan well or adjust quick enough for the trainwreck that became the 2011 Falcons offensive line. Some feel that he was given the hook to quick or even scape-goated, but the simple fact remains that the offensive line was really bad last season and almost got the QB killed. As mentioned in previous posts, Boudreau never stayed with an NFL team more than 3 years. It’s certainly a leap to think that was the reason he was let go from all the other teams, but a lack of adjustment surely cost him job in Atlanta.

Fans are Hoping a lot from Hill (AJC)

Enter Pat Hill, former head coach of Fresno State who almost single-handedly brought that program to relevancy. He does have NFL experience and is reportedly highly respected in coaching circles. No one knows exactly what differences in approach or schemes he will bring, but the expectations are high for him and the new OL. The idea among many is that Hill will be more diverse and responsive in his gameplans, schemes, and blocking techniques. The feeling from Boudreau and Mularkey was they were extremely rigid in their approach. Hopefully, Hill can change that.

Finally, the hope is that Hill can do much more with some of the players that have been drafted in the Dimitroff regime, specifically Mike Johnson, Garrett Reynolds, and Joe Hawley. Also, with the open competition at many OL positions, the expectation is that Hill will add some impartial objectivity to those in the competition, not showing favoritism to veteran or higher drafted players.

Bird Cage Veterans Turn

1) Simple: Is it time to panic at left tackle?

2) Your prediction on who will win the starting LT job?

3) Will someone take over the job at any point during season?

4) Can Sam Baker really turn it around?

5) What’s Smith and TD’s obsession with Baker?

6) Any chance Svitek is being overlooked?

7) Will the loser of the battle for LT be cut?

8.) Any way Holmes takes the spot?

9) If and when will Holmes take over at LT?

10) Any chance TD signs a free agent LT, like McNeill?

11) Is Pat Hill the savior for a broken and weak OL?

106 comments Add your comment

Unca' Bob

June 28th, 2012
7:41 pm

Enter your comments here

D3

June 28th, 2012
8:11 pm

Before I get any arrows slung at me on the post, the predictions are what I THINK will happen, not what I think SHOULD happen. I’ve said before that, even if Sam Baker is healthy, he’s at best adequate, but surely not going to be a guy that you make a run to the Super Bowl with.

I wanted Holmes to come in and snag the spot, but that really never had a chance of happening anyway. Best case scenario in my opinion is that Will Svitek wins the job, Pat Hill has a major upgrade influence on the OL overall, and that Holmes will get reps this year and be ready to takeover in 2013.

JB FALCON

June 28th, 2012
8:27 pm

UB, Touche’

Chop Buster

June 28th, 2012
8:41 pm

Svitek needs to go in camp and take what’s his. Baker is no LT I don’t care what comes out of Dimitroff and Smitty’s mouths. I’ve watched Baker enough to know he doesn’t have sound technique…he’s always too high and back peddling. Can you say Turnstile?

Chop Buster

June 28th, 2012
8:43 pm

Svitek with more coaching and attitude can be our man.

Chop Buster

June 28th, 2012
8:48 pm

Holmes is more of a project IMO. We won’t know what he can do until he is healthy and can play at the NFL level.

JB FALCON

June 28th, 2012
8:59 pm

D3, excellent post. I will try to answer the questions in a bundle since I’m not too godd at cuttin’ and pastin’. I am not the least bit worried about the left tackle position for several reasons. If Baker is indeed healed and healthy, he would do as a started, if Sivik doesn’t beat him out during training camp. Either one could start and do an adequate job.
Then I look at the new system is going to which takes a lot of pressure off of the LT position coupled with the new technics of Hill. So, Baker or Sivik will do for starters UNLESS Holmes comes in and does what he does. I’m not buying the 2013 idea. A good tackle is a good tackle, there’s not that much to learn and it certainly doesn’t take a year to learn what he has been doing already.
So, he had a toe problem and did not participate in the OTA’s etc. That was a smart move by TD & Co. Let it heal completely and use him lightly during training camp. When the are convinced he is toatlly healed? Turn him lose. A toe problem can be a hugh problem for a hugh man.
If they let him heal he is better than Baker of Sivik by a mile. They can cut Sivik or Baker either one after Holmes takes over. Homes has all ov the qualities for a left tackle that will be there for the next 7-8 years. It’s just a matter of when they let him loose. I just hope they don’t try to put too much on that toe too soon or he will be out for the year.
It is my hope that they bring him along lightly through training camp and he is healed enough to start.

Unca' Bob

June 28th, 2012
9:01 pm

JB FALCON

June 28th, 2012
8:27 pm

Timing in life is everything.

D3,

I for one look foward to the health of Baker. The year 2010 he played lights out because he did not suffer an injury. Should he remain healthy…?

JB FALCON

June 28th, 2012
9:01 pm

Yeah, now I read it to check for errors!

Shake

June 28th, 2012
9:19 pm

CLEARLY SAM BAKER IS IN THE GOOD OLD BOY NETWORK, CAUSE IF HE WAS BLACK HE WOULD HAVE BEEN CUT.

waynester

June 28th, 2012
9:58 pm

Howdy guys–long time, no post–it’s been a hectic summer…..
I think D3 is essentially correct and has the guys listed in probable order. I’ve been scared to death about our OLT situation for years, however, and we’ve somehow made it this far with these 2 guys. Smitty is too loyal not to stand by them one more season while Holmes gets better.
Shake
I hope you’re not serious. Hello? Jamal Anderson–our DE of the Future–some players just don’t pan out but you feel like you have to give them every opportunity in the world, since you drafted them in the 1st round. Race is an easy card to play, since most of us seem to belong to one….

Big Ray

June 28th, 2012
10:35 pm

Unca Bob ,

That’s just it. “If he can stay healthy.” There’s the problem – Baker has all kinds of issues, and has only had one healthy year. It’s not a good track record.

If DJ Shockley could have stayed healthy…would we have Chris Redman and JPW? Just sayin’….

If Jerious Norwood could have stayed healthy….would we have had a better 1-2 punch a RB (and not have to draft Quizz) earlier on? Well, maybe if you take Mularkey out of the picture…

Health. Can’t be bought, can’t be trained, can’t be obtained a number of conventional ways. And can’t be trusted, apparently…

Big Ray

June 28th, 2012
10:36 pm

Shake ,

Don’t start that sh!t. I mean it. Kick rocks. Get gone. Too much evidence says otherwise. Read my above post.

Big Ray

June 28th, 2012
10:38 pm

So Cody Pearcy gets cut. Dang….maybe, like somebody said on Radio’s blog, the playbook overwhelmed him. I know this much – the physical ability is there.

Hope he catches on somewhere, but hope he doesn’t make us regret this move greatly.

In the meantime….James Rodgers?

Surg the urge

June 28th, 2012
10:46 pm

As much as people want to complain at the fact that we don’t have 5 HOF’ers across the line, I think that we should keep our expectations realistic. Sam Baker was downright terrible last year due to injury, but when he’s healthy he is our best LT. The last thing we need is a unstable rotation at LT, it could make the best of QB’s paranoid. Will is a good back up, that’s it. If a good d-lineman watches film on him, he’ll get exposed too. Working with Pat Hill for a full offseason could help get Sam back on track, and until he sucks his way out of ATL I’m sticking with him.

Michael

June 29th, 2012
1:33 am

Would that we were in a perfect situation in which the Falcons cut Baker, saved a little more cap space and brought in a vet like McNeil to compete with Svitek and possibly mentor a young Holmes. Alas, it is not a perfect world and as such, Baker will most likely get the nod. Dimitroff is doing what he can to salvage that ‘08 draft to validate his GM of the year acclaim so he is going to use every opportunity to show he did not waste the Baker pick. After all, he’s wasted so many already.

Birdman

June 29th, 2012
6:13 am

Our Birds will be fine . They will take the NFC South . I see Baker Starting the season but Holmes will come in as the season goes on.

Come On Football 2012 !!!!!!!

DB/QB

June 29th, 2012
10:14 am

TD will try to make and hope Baker does well at risk of BIRDS SUPER BOWL HOPES and Matt Ryan’s and Turner’s health. If Baker doesn’t cut it please TD and Coach Smith get someone in here! We saw what losing Dahl meant last year, it may have cost us the Super Bowl! We are so close we can’t afford to allow your ego about your draft picks over rule our quest for the SUPER BOWL. Leave nothing to chance or this thing will unravel on you! Another thing is you let a PRO BOWL FullBack go in OL. Mu. It is now or never TD PLEASE!!!

AGTFan53

June 29th, 2012
11:33 am

The idea that we should panic is ludicrous. I think a healthy Sam Baker is better than adequate. He may not be a “franchise” player, but when he’s healthy he’s a good left tackle. Svitek has proven to be adequate as a backup. He proved his adequacy last season. The Falcons aren’t a better team starting Svitek over a healthy Baker. Last season, the Falcons obviously thought Baker, not fully recovered was their best backup option to Svitek. Just because Baker has become the favorite scapegoat for AJC blog posters, doesn’t mean he’s a terrible player. I’ll take the opinion of experienced professional coaches over the amateurs who post on the blogs. I’ll certainly take theirs over the opinion of someone who thinks that the only reason he’s still on the team is because he’s white. He doesn’t look any whiter than Svitek. I’ll wait at least until we see some game action this year before I consider panic.

Ken Strickland

June 29th, 2012
11:38 am

I seriously doubt if LHomes wil be a factor at LT until sometime into the season. The nature of the injury will prevent him from maintaining the proper conditioning to effectively compete for the position during training camp. Baker is a solid run blocker, which seems to be a priority at this point due to the several gm changing short yardage failures we had last yr.

I’m certain Koetter will throw a lot of screens and swing passes to the left side to slow down the rush on that side. It’s easier for a competent coordinator to help a LT with pass rushing issues than it is to help one with run blocking issues. There’s no doubt that LHolmes is our LT of the future, and the beginning of his tenue will be determined by how quickly his conditioning and development are up to par.

We are eventually going to have a big, strong, physical, versatile and mobily OL by the time of the playoffs. Holmes, Hawley and Konz are our LT, OC and RG of the future respectively.

Joshua malavenda

June 29th, 2012
11:54 am

I think the best upgrade for the line was the hiring of hill as the ol coach. He will finally develop the ol into perineal all stars unlike the last coach. I also think his zbs will play to the strengths of the players who are already here. He will also add some needed aggression and tenacity to ol that will translate to on field play that were missing when we lost Harvey Dahl. I predict that Holmes will be starting by the end of the year without baring a injury. If that is the case baker will be released and svitek will be kept for depth. Whatever happeneds I think the falcons ol will be okay and their is no need to worry. In hill I trust.

Jeff B

June 29th, 2012
12:01 pm

Andrew Jackson.

I called it here, I called it first. At some point this year, you will see our former president start at LT for the Falcons and it will be glorious, glorious…

Trailboss

June 29th, 2012
1:16 pm

My little Brother is a die hard Falcons Fan and they just don’t think Matt have it but I knew the problem were very much coaching and Matt not having the time to set-up for five step drop back and here they come so quick passe across the middle was their bread and butter. I think if you give him the time he will tare you apart.It look like the we’re going to have a chance to show them all by first using the speed in the backfield with screens and living deep on the other end of the field and get some respect in all positions and this is going to them all ” RISE UP.”

Die Hard Falcon

June 29th, 2012
1:37 pm

I think that if Baker is healthy, we’ll be fine at LT. With the addition of screen passes and routes designed to hit receivers on the run like crossing patterns and slants, the ball comes out quick and that will slow down the pass rush and I believe that if Baker isn’t ready, then it will be Svitek until Holmes is ready and Svitek did a pretty good job against some big name pass rushers, at least in terms of giving up sacks. Now having time to throw bombs is another story, but I really believe that we’ll be alright.

Go Falcons!!!

Ken Strickland

June 29th, 2012
1:43 pm

After all of the efforts and comments made by Mularkey and Boudreau about the importance of cross training OLinemen, when it came time for it to bare fruit, it rotted on the vine. GReynolds and SBaker failed miserably. I can see cross training OTs and OGs to play both sides,and even OC to OGs, but why try to cross train them as interior OLinemen?

What has been done to GReynolds could end up making him a career backup when he might have potential to be a quality starting OT. If his pass blocking is better than SBaker’s, and his run blocking is better than WSvitek, he would definitely be a better OT than both. At any rate, functioning within a multidimensional blocking scheme and OFF system, along with better coaching from Hill, will probably create improvement in all of our OLinemen.

Broudreau used a one dimensional blocking approach, the one on one PBS. Once DEFs made adjustments to what we were doing, and realized that we didn’t make any changes to what we were doing, or adjustments to what they were doing, both Boudreau and our OL were exposed.

If you utilize multiple blocking techniques and schemes, you can run the same play multiple time in succession and get positive results. That’s the most likely reason Koetter was able to maintain a very consistent and effective rushing attack without any support from his dead last passing OFF. It amazes me how so called experts, and even some of our fans, can predict success and show fear of teams like the Bucs and Panthers, even with all of their issues and lack of overall talent compared to us, but not feel the same way about the Falcons, who are one of the NFLs most talented teams period.

The AINTS/TAINTS can lose their GM, HC, #2 WR, AllPro OG, Probrowl MLB, best CB, 2 DTs and an OLB, yet still be considered a Superbowl contender, even with a bottom feeding DEF. The Bucs can hire an entirely new coaching staff, with little to no NFL experience, bring in numerous new potential starters, yet still be considered a up and coming darkhors team.

The Panthers entire OFF success, just like the AINTS/TAINTS, is based on one player, their QBs. Their DEF had problems last yr, and they still have only 1 receiving threat. Yet, people are talking about them being a contender in the NFL South.

But when it comes to the Falcons, who had the 7th ranked rushing DEF and passing OFF, hired a new OC, DC, OL, DB and QB coach, along withhaving more Probowl and Probowl caliber skill players than all 3 divisional teams combined, the jury is still loaded with pessimism. By the way, LT wasn’t our biggest problem, it was the interior of the R-side of our OL that caused most of our run and pass blocking issues. Everyone of our short yardage failures were over our OC and RG.

John Waynesworld

June 29th, 2012
1:54 pm

Our 2012 season will be defined by how Matt Ryan performs, and the Left Tackle production will for the most part decide how our QB performs. As perception goes, last season Ryan had “happy feet” or made poor decisions due to inadequate blind-side protection. You could see it starting right before your eyes in the Chicago game with the horrendous pass protection and it continued throughout the season and into the playoff. However there was an added rub to Ryan’s perceived skittishness…Here in the Cage we have all seen a ton of NFL games, and I think we can all agree that Ryan threw the ball away under pressure (or perceived pressure) with more conviction than any other QB in the league. It was like an alarm clock went off in Matt’s head and he would spin 90° and fire the football into the 3rd row. In my opinion, that conservative “throw it away” approach was no doubt installed by Mularkey from his “I really don’t trust my own QB” ball management strategy, but the result made Ryan appear as inept as his offensive line. That has to change and it will with a new OC, but a lot depends on our QB. Ryan, despite our LT woes, has to be directed by Koetter and QB coach Glenn Thomas to work on finding ways of slide stepping the pass rush when the pocket breaks down or even trusting his pocket for one more second when it is appearing to collapse just to get the receiver time to get open. With some new pieces the offensive line will get better but it needs a few games to gel, and Ryan will help them by stepping up his own play.

old qb

June 29th, 2012
2:24 pm

Pertaining to LT we protest too much. If Baker is healthy he’s adequate. Svitek is equally adequate. Holmes is a two year project so forget him this season.
Old saying, “When you can’t hide something, you contrast it”. I believe the key to the Falcons 2012 season will come down to Konz and if he plays right guard. Konz’ strength is he is regarded as one of the best pulling guards to come out of the draft in years. The Falcons are finally going to employ more screens (about time). The key to a successful screen is a really good pulling guard.
We’re stuck with Baker if he’s healthy this year. If he isn’t than Svitek will be there.
Mike Johnson is going to sit and wait for another year if Konz plays guard and then moves to center next year.

Ken Strickland

June 29th, 2012
3:12 pm

LRD

June 29th, 2012
3:47 pm

What up cage? Hope everyone is staying cool in the heat wave.

Baker will be the starter until his old injuries surface yet again to slow him down.
That being said Baker knows this is his last shot to either stay with the Falcons or make a big enough impression pre-injury replace with Svitek to have another team next year to take a chance on Baker when we cut him

The motivation for Baker is , he is healthy for once (yeah right) and not only his job on the line, but this could easily be last year here in ATL.

And again, the line needs to work as a unit. So Hill needs to insure the line thinks and reacts to one. Its not like Matt is out scrambling around, intentionaly leaving the pocket and mad scrambler. Therefore Hill needs to do a better job of having his unit working as ONE.

Now time to go load up on water balloons for the kids…..

Hamad Meander

June 29th, 2012
4:12 pm

I’m not worried about left tackle. I feel that if any one of these guys doesn’t perform, there will be another to try to do the job right behind him. I worry more about someone playing the position poorly and not having any other option. I don’t think we are at that point anymore.

Let’s just accept that we AREN’T going to have a Pro-Bowler at left tackle this year and work around that. You can’t have top 10 talent at every position. There are teams out there with worse situations at tackle than the Falcons.

JJ

June 29th, 2012
4:21 pm

JJ

June 29th, 2012
4:42 pm

JJ

June 29th, 2012
4:43 pm

JJ

June 29th, 2012
4:46 pm

snacktastic

June 29th, 2012
7:55 pm

JWW@1:44 pm: Good points. How many times have we seen Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees evade two blitzers (often two Falcons blitzers) by simply taking a few steps forward into the pocket? Sure, a better OL will give Ryan more time, but he can also give himself more time by knowing when and how to move around. I think he’ll become aware of this himself if he’s watching film of other QBs like we’ve heard.

JB FALCON

June 29th, 2012
9:17 pm

The subject of this post was; Time to Panic at Left Tackle?
The answer so far has been; No; Why should we: or maybe. Of course this question is because Sam Baker has been indicated as the starting LT, so far. We haven’t even started Spring Training yet! We don’t even know that his back will last that long.
I’m not worried so I will go with the “no’s”. I think the key word was mentioned earlier. “Healthy.” Only thing we can do now is wait and see. Premature worrying causes high blood pressure so I’ll just have another refreshment and wait. T i c k t o c k.

John Waynesworld

June 29th, 2012
10:04 pm

JBF, I agree, as in the best answer is “We can’t panic because we don’t know”. Thanks to the new CBA rules, all players must have no contact in OTAs and mini-camp with anything but food and their smartphone. So we don’t actually know yet if Baker is fully recovered until after the main training camp opens and some hitting happens. That shortens our timeline, but we should find out about Baker quickly, we have Svitek, and luckily there will be plenty of serviceable veteran roster casualties out there from other teams in an emergency.

D3

June 29th, 2012
10:11 pm

Hey Gang, make sure to keep cool. Supposed to 104 & 105 in Metro Atl over weekend. PFW is reporting that Falcons signed veteran S Chris Hope.

Nice backup signing for depth. Knew something was coming when Pearcy was let go. TD never randomly makes moves.

Big Ray

June 30th, 2012
12:03 am

D3 ,

Yeah, I saw that. I’m figuring it’s another solid move to shore up the secondary, just like Sanders last year. I’ll take it. Who knows, Pearcy might yet make it back to Flowery Branch. You never know.

In the meantime, there are other folks who have a shot at doing some things for us.

Ken Strickland

June 30th, 2012
12:32 am

Ken Strickland

June 30th, 2012
11:04 am

Firey Falcon Fan in the Sweltering Southern Sunshine

June 30th, 2012
12:03 pm

1) Simple: Is it time to panic at left tackle?

Nope, but perhaps it IS time to lower expectations. Panic doesn’t help, lowering expectations at least allows us to prepare for contingencies.

2) Your prediction on who will win the starting LT job?

Day 1, Baker is the official starter, Svitek will take more snaps, Holmes continues his learning curve. Svitek starts by game 3 because of injury, Holmes takes at least ¼ of the snaps by the end of the season, perhaps even starting.

3) Will someone take over the job at any point during season?
Someone will be there, sure, but no one will dominate unless Svitek takes it up a notch.

4) Can Sam Baker really turn it around?

No. I m certain he wants to, he has the heart, and the support of coaching, but I don’t think his body will cooperate.

5) What’s Smith and TD’s obsession with Baker?

Loyalty to a warrior that always gives all he has without complaint. I have no issue with loyalty or Baker’s heart. I just think it is time for open competition.

6) Any chance Svitek is being overlooked?

Nope, he may actually get more snaps in the first half of the season. He earned it last year. Might start, but they will save Baker’s face by saying he is injured. This is his last year.

7) Will the loser of the battle for LT be cut?

THAT is a toughie. If anyone is cut from the three, I will guess Baker. IR is a better option.

8.) Any way Holmes takes the spot?

Day one? Possible but doubtful due to his offseason foot injury. Depends on Baker and Svitek more than Holmes I suspect.

9) If and when will Holmes take over at LT?

End of the season?

10) Any chance TD signs a free agent LT, like McNeill?

Nope, the OL is already crowded.

11) Is Pat Hill the savior for a broken and weak OL?

Different shade of lipstick, same piggies. If there are saviors they will be players, Holmes, Konz, even our new FB (extra blocker usually). The greatest cook in the world can’t make a superlative omelet with rotten eggs cooked on hot Ga. asphalt.

Firey Falcon Fan in the Sweltering Southern Sunshine

June 30th, 2012
12:06 pm

Interesting links on the new S, thanks guys. Good chemistry move, an extra coach back there that knows what it take to earn the ring.

D3

June 30th, 2012
1:13 pm

Great Swelter Day Cage! — It’s hot as Hades out there brothers. Finishing my last day up in Tennessee and heading back south tomorrow. It’s not much cooler up here, but it’s not projected to be 104 either. Yikes.

A few musings……..

(+) — A lot of good points being made here in The Cage about one Sam Baker and our overall LT position. Perhaps panic is a strong word, but it’s easily been the most unsettling position since Smith and TD came aboard. I will say this on Baker, when he’s FULLY healthy, he’s adequate. But a franchise left tackle to protect our franchise QB, he’’s not. Something should be said for the run we had in 2010 and he was every bit a part of it. We didn’t just pummel cupcakes, we beat some good teams (Pack, Ravens, Saints) and played another two very close (Steelers in OT, Saints at home). That cannot be overlooked enough. Gotta give credit where it’s due.

(+) — Baker is likely playing his last year here in Atlanta and it’s a contract year for him. He’s got to have a great year to draw any interest whatsoever other than a backup, and be paid as such. Can’t imagine us re-signing him with Holmes waiting in the wings. Which brings up another very good question: will the loser of the LT battle be cut? Honestly, I think Svitek gives us a better bridge than Baker, and I can’t imagine us letting Svitek go with Baker’s injury history (assuming Baker wins the job). If Baker loses the job outright, would it make sense to keep a backup OL for 3+ million?

(+) — Brings up another points: If the Falcons go with 9 OL as they have in the past, who goes? Assume that Baker wins the job, so that would give us: Baker, Blalock, Konz, Hawley, McClure, Clabo, Reynolds, Johnson, and Holmes as likely locks. At that point Manuwai gets the axe. I think it would be stupid to give up on any of our OL we drafted prematurely. Honestly, it wouldn’t even hurt to just hang onto 10 OL. You can never have enough linemen. You’d have to sacrifice elsewhere, such as 3rd TE or 5th RB.

(+) — Obviously, nothing has been finalized yet, but I can’t get the obsession with Todd McClure. What makes him any different than any other very old veteran that has reached his expiration date. He seems to have something different than all of the following players: Mike Peterson, Erik Coleman, Lawyer Milloy, Keith Brooking, etc. When it’s time, it’s time and I truly don’t believe that we should sacrifice talent (Hawley, Konz) for veteran “leadership.” Take your lumps and build from there. Hell, Hawley’s already been baptized by fire and should only be better for it.

(+) — My hopeful starting OL and reserves:
Version 1
LT – Svitek
LG – Blalock
C – Hawley
RG – Konz
RT – Clabo
Reserves: Holmes, Reynolds, Johnson, Manuwai, Baker (if only 9, than Manuwai goes)

Verison 2
LT – Baker
LG – Blalock
C – Konz
RG – Johnson
RT – Clabo
Reserves: Svitek, Holmes, Reynolds, Manuwai, Hawley (if only 9, than Manuwai goes)

(+) — Falcoholic buddies beat me to the punch, but I absolutely agree that Shann Schillinger is done as a Falcon. Chris Hope was an excellent pickup in the mold of James Sanders from last year. Superb veteran depth behind oft-injured William Moore. Charles Mitchell will be making the roster for sure. Schillinger once had hope, but after seeing him in those pre-season games, sorry bro, you just ain’t got it.

PoolerSpirit

June 30th, 2012
3:14 pm

FFFitSSS- “Different shade of lipstick, same piggies.” Great line! That’s just one more reason why I love reading the Cage!

PoolerSpirit

June 30th, 2012
3:21 pm

Trading out Schillinger for Hope is an upgrade for us, and settles our Safety backup position. Good move by the Comrade…

Ken Strickland

June 30th, 2012
4:04 pm

Barring injury, whoever wins the LT battle will get the job done. The requirements for LT will be very different and less demanding under Koetter than it was under Mularkey. Loading screens and swing passes heavily to the left side will definitely limit the all out pass rush of the RDE and blitzing of the OLBs that Mularkey’s OFF approach encouraged.

No matter what the down and distance might be, Kotter and Ryan will make DEFs read and maintain containment to protect against the screen or swing pass before lauching a pass, which will all but eliminate the all out rush or blitz. Vertical passing routes are designed to have the QB hit moving targets, get the ball out of his hands quickly, and gain YAC.

To slow down that type of passing OFF, DEFs have to drop someone back, usually LBs, to try and cut off the quick hitting routes. That move limits blitzing, as well as the number of pass rushers DEFs can send, which will give MRyan more time in the pocket. Our passing attack, and the protection MRyan receives, won’t be dependent on who plays LT.

Besides, if our rushing OFF is as successful and consistent as it should be, and our passing OFF is as successful and consistent as it should be, MRyan won’t be in enough 3rd and long situations for it to be a problem.

Firey Falcon Fan in the Sweltering Southern Sunshine

June 30th, 2012
5:00 pm

PoolerSpirit – Thanks! Just trying not to go nuts in the offseason (and with limited chances to keep up with the threads here). Humor helps.

When I think of the O-line, I am looking at it inversely, and going nuts (D3 alluded to it a bit in the above post). LOTS of folks out there willing to jump in and give it their all, some younger and untested, some grizzled (or Gnarled in some cases) vets. Can’t keep them all, and for sure injuries will be a factor, as was mentioned in an earlier post I believe.

Who gets cut? Do we keep 9 or 10? Where is depth needed most in a 19 or so game season (OK, I plan to WIN, BABY!! and I would hope the coaching staff thinks the same way)?

Looking at next year as well, what is the cost/benefit of keeping McClure? He will retire and may send young talent to another team from a training camp cut. Do we need 3 centers? Konz/Hawley/McClure???

Baker, same question – does the oft injured LT have any further upside? Is his stability (when healthy) worth losing development time for Holmes? Is there a drop off if Svitek holds the position? Keeping Baker one more year could give up a comp pick in a couple years, and who knows? He could return to form when we went 13-3?

Reynolds – any more upside under the new coaches? His is a reserve/developmental spot, can he provide more reserve/developmental value than other “roster bubble” players. Same Johnson, can’t survive on potential forever, time to step up or move out, there is a crowd in the OT pool.

SOOO, sacrifice vets and possibly go back to rebuilding mode in a year we could win it all? Or, stick with vets that Ryan is comfortable with, who know each other, and try to ride that horse all the way to the Lombardi, risking the OL meltdown we had last year?

Gives me a headache, and it is certain that there will be many that disagree with the final cuts. I just hope that we look at this as a 19 game season, look at performance/longevity over a long season instead of loyalty for great guys that gave their all in campaigns past.

JB FALCON

June 30th, 2012
6:32 pm

FFF, I’m all in the 19 game idea. Why would we even bother with less of a goal in mind? When the chopping block comes out we have to grit our teeth and tust in the system. You’re right, we ain’t going to like it. I’m already ticked off about the Pearcy cut but what do I know? I do know that we’ve got enough apples on the tree to make a damn fine pie. AND some people won’t like it.

Firey Falcon Fan in the Sweltering Southern Sunshine

June 30th, 2012
9:41 pm

JB, dead on with ya.

I put the 19 game season concept out there with the understanding (which I hope and pray the coaching staff is factoring in as well) that there WILL be injuries, and that some players are more susceptible to injury than others. Will we be ready to go to war AFTER a grueling 16 game regular season? Will we be better then because of seasoning and maturing, or weaker because of injuries?

So, when looking at cuts, they look at skills today, skills at the end of the season, ability to cover more than one position (apparently an overriding factor at the branch), ability to learn the playbook and audibles, smarts to avoid costly penalties, and–DURABILITY. I am stressing durability.

Would you cut someone progressing up the learning curve over someone that has a litany of injuries littering their career and is likely to be beaten down to reduced effectiveness after 16 games or even out completely?

An argument for Holmes AND Svitek over Baker if we don’t have the luxury of 3 LT candidates (not factoring in Jackson, even Reynolds if they are even in the hunt at LT).