In 2009, for the second season in a row, the Atlanta Falcons found themselves in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed, with 27, eighth fewest in the league. The mark is higher than their 17 in 2008, but still represents solid line play.
The offensive tackles are largely responsible for protecting Matt Ryan as he stands in the pocket and Sam Baker and Tyson Clabo performed well.
Will Svitek filled in admirably when Baker went down near the end of the season with various injuries including ankle and hamstring issues.
Garrett Reynolds played right tackle in college, but his game action last season came in Week 16 against Buffalo as a right guard. Because of his size, he's likely being groomed to be a right tackle and his guard play was just another example of the franchise's approach to cross training.
Entering training camp the Falcons have four traditional tackles on the roster and AtlantaFalcons.com examines them:
Sam Baker 3rd season
Who:The 2008 first-round draft pick has struggled with injuries in his time in the NFL, but has played well when he's been on the field. His 14 starts last season was a step up from his five starts and eight appearances as a rookie. The 6'5", 307-pound former USC All-American looks to make a big leap in his career entering his third campaign.
Why:Draft status and talent means the left tackle position is his to lose. Through Week 11 of last season, when he was healthy, he'd only allowed one sack and four QB hits. The Falcons need Baker to be the franchise blind-side protector and he'll be given every chance to be that.
How:Baker just needs to maintain his health to enter the season as the team's starting left tackle.
Tyson Clabo 5th season
Who:Clabo began his time with the Falcons as a practice squad member and worked his way into the starting lineup in 2006 and 2007. He became a regular at right tackle in '08 and has started every game since.
Why:The 6'6", 331-pound tackle was brought back to the Falcons under his restricted free agent tender for a reason. His steady and durable play has been a big reason for the Falcons' overall offensive line performance. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he allowed five sacks last season and five QB hits.
How:There's no reason why Clabo won't return to his starting spot on the right side for 2010. Atlanta will rely on him to continue to man that position for every snap as he did last season.
Will Svitek 5th season
Who:The 6'6", 300-pound lineman was a sixth-round draft selection by the Chiefs in 2005 and joined the Falcons for the 2009 after being out of football for the '08 season. He appeared in 13 games last season, including two starts, and saw most of his time at left tackle.
Why:Quietly Svitek showed last season that he's a very effective rotational tackle in the NFL. As a starter against Carolina in Week 11, Svitek shut out Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers, not allowing a sack or a hit of the quarterback. In his 273 snaps last season, he allowed only two sacks.
How:Svitek's strong play last season showed Atlanta the 28-year old can be a valuable member of the offensive line. He'll be expected to maintain his performance last season during training camp and should be one of the key rotational tackles for the Falcons in 2010.
Garrett Reynolds 2nd season
Who:The Second-Team All-ACC selection as a senior at UNC in 2008 joined the Falcons as a fifth-round draft choice following that season. The mammoth lineman (6'7", 310 pounds) is believed to have exceptional pass-protection ability as a tackle, but got his first taste of the NFL last season in Week 16 against the Bills as a right guard.
Why:Size and potential make Reynolds the presumed future at right tackle for the Falcons. He played well in his brief chance last season and used his entire rookie season to learn from the experience along the Falcons' offensive line. As a draft choice, the only offensive selection in 2009, Atlanta will want to see Reynolds become part of the rotation on the outside of the line.
How:Reynolds will be expected to have some growing pains in his second season, but the coaching staff will want to see the 23-year old stay tough and continue to learn. If he can do that and take advantage of the opportunity that may be presented to him, he'll be on his way to being active far more in 2010 than he was in 2009.