With Weight Up, Baker Primed for 2014

At first glance during the first week of OTAs, it appeared every Falcons player had gained weight. That's not the case, but the place where the most weight appeared to be gained was in the trenches, along the offensive and defensive lines. Among those with added weight this season is left tackle Sam Baker.

Baker returns from an injury last season that limited him to just four games. Head coach Mike Smith said Baker is fully healthy and that bodes well for the improvement of the line this season. Newcomer Jake Matthews will man the right side while Baker will hold down the left side of the offensive line that welcomes a second new member in Jon Asamoah at right guard. The theme this offseason was beefing up and offensive line coach Mike Tice said Baker's done just that.

"I like the fact that he's keeping his weight up," Tice said. "We talked to him about that, see if he can carry some more weight. He's working hard."

Baker, a 2008 first-round draft pick played all 16 games in 2012 and played like a first-rounder. Baker's battled injuries throughout his career, but also was a 16-game starter in 2011. Tice said Baker's been at the facility every day working with his teammates to adjust to some of the changes in philosophy.

"Sam's done a nice job of buying in as far as what we're trying to do as far as technique changes and as far as some of the scheme changes that we've made," Tice said. "He's come to work every day, hasn't missed a day. He's put his time in."

Tice said he's honed in on potential technique flaws in many of his lineman and they're working to fix them. For veterans like Baker and left guard Justin Blalock, some technique changes after years in the league can steepen the learning curve.

"When you ask a veteran guy like Justin and Sam to change some things technique-wise, it takes a little time," Tice said. "When things start moving fast they're going to revert to back to some of the footwork things and some of the hand things they did in the past. We're going to work hard every day to see if we can get some of those things cleaned up."

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