Fewer divisions have a tougher road than the NFC South. If the Atlanta Falcons want to get back to the playoffs they need stability at left tackle. Some think they don't. Does this mean they should have eyes on Jake Long with the Miami Dolphins?
Falcon fans wonder if Sam Baker can protect Matt Ryan
By now most NFL fans have a good sense of what Atlanta has put on offense. Around quarterback Matt Ryan is one of the more talented offensive rosters in the league with Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White, blazing speedster Julio Jones, bruising running back Michael Turner and eventual Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzales. It's hard for fans to understand how this group of players haven't won a playoff game since the defense has improved. They hope that trend ends in 2012. Even as the rest of the division improves the Falcons feel they have what it takes to reach the post season. One glaring roadblock though, one that can disrupt their entire season is the big question mark at left tackle. Outside of quarterback, that tackle spot is likely the most important on an offense. A left tackle protects the blindside of a passer. If a team has any player on that side who is unreliable, it can ruin a whole year on one missed block. The Atlanta Falcons aren't sure if they have the right man in Sam Baker. Injuries and inconsistency have marred his first two years and given what the team has behind him there is good reason to worry. If he flops this season, will the Falcons go after someone more proven?
Future of Long in Miami rests with Coach Joe Philbin
One name the NFL heard rumors about was tackle Jake Long. The Miami Dolphins stalwart has had injury problems too, but that hasn't stopped him from reaching four-straight Pro Bowls. While Fins fans never wanted him to go, the decision isn't up to them. That stand is with new head coach Joe Philbin. Miami brought Long in as a rookie for his Ã©lite run blocking skills. Under Philbin, the Dolphins will likely take a similar offensive approach like Green Bay with a pass-heavy playbook. While no slouch, Long isn't as good of a pass blocker, which explains why the Dolphins took Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin in the second round of the draft in April. Not even getting voted the 59th best player of 2012 has quieted the rumors. Miami ownerships has said they have no plans to let trade Long or let him go in free agency next season. That could change though if he falters in Philbin's new offense. Any number of team would love a chance to get him and Atlanta could go right to the top of that list. Adding Long would give them an anchor on their line that could plow holes open for Michael Turner and give Matt Ryan protection he needs. The only issue is the price they'd have to pay.
The Atlanta Falcons believe in Sam Baker, but that company line only goes so far into a season. One bad game can change everything. If they want to win when it counts then taking Jake Long from the Miami Dolphins is the right call. All they have to do is hope Joe Philbin can't find a use for him.