Falcons tackle Sam Baker is assisted off the field during the second quarter of Saturday’s preseason game against the Texans. Baker tore his patella tendon in his right knee. (Reuters)
HOUSTON — Atlanta Falcons left tackle Sam Baker is expected to miss the 2014 season after leaving Saturday night’s preseason game against the Houston Texans with a torn patella tendon in his right knee.
If Baker is indeed out for the season, it will serve as a big setback for the Falcons’ offensive line. It could also hasten the move of No. 6 overall pick Jake Matthews to left tackle. Matthews had been slated to start at right tackle during his rookie season.
Matthews was called for two penalties in his preseason debut and struggled at times against the Texans’ talented defensive line in Saturday’s 32-7 loss, but has been widely praised for his technique and potential. Regardless, the Falcons were not expecting to count on the former Texas A&M star to protect quarterback Matt Ryan’s blind side this season.
“I think that Jake did some good things,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said after Saturday’s game. “He got matched up and had some tough battles, but I think that he did a nice job. He is going to be a good player in this league.”
Baker was carted off the field Saturday, and the team was awaiting test results to confirm the injury. He played only four games last season due to a knee injury and has also dealt with back issues during his career.
Third-year veteran Lamar Holmes is listed as Baker’s backup and replaced him on Saturday.
He started 15 of 16 games last season, but was highly inconsistent and part of an offensive line that allowed Ryan to be sacked a career-high 44 times. The Falcons could start Holmes or Gabe Carimi at right tackle should they decide to move Matthews to the left side.
“I don’t want to speculate in terms of what we would do,” Smith said. “We’d have a number of options. Again, our number one goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen out there. We obviously know that he’s one of the five best because he’s a starter. Is he our best left tackle? Is he our best option? That’s something we’ll have to determine if we have to address that.”
Smith declined to speculate on how the Falcons would address the situation until learning the extent of Baker’s injury.
“I don’t want to speculate in terms of what we would do,” Smith said Saturday. “We would have a number of options. Again, our number one goal would be to put the five best offensive linemen out there. We obviously know that he is one of the five best because he is a starter. Is he our best left tackle, our best option? That is something that we will have to determine if we have to address that.”
Several players took their helmets off and watched on one-knee as Baker was helped and driven off the field.
“It’s tough,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “I don’t know the severity of Sam’s injury. We’ll have to see how that shakes out. You don’t want to see anybody go down, especially in the (exhibition) season. It’s part of the deal, buy it’s not one of the things you like seeing as a player.”