Yes, you heard that correctly.
No, I'm not crazy. My mother had me tested.
There are quite a few benefits to starting the rookie undrafted free agent. The first of which is that it can allow the Falcons to accept Baker's injury situation on the season. After that, it comes down to player development and just putting the best product out there on the field in 2014.
Just put Sam Baker on Injured Reserve Already
Look, Baker is obviously hurt. He's spent the entire season listed on the injury report with a hurt knee. And while, yes, keeping him out there could help improve the Falcons progression on offense and on the offensive line, him healing up to 100 percent is even more important.
The fact that Mike Smith has long term concerns about the knee is even more alarming. As ESPN's Vaughn McClure reported, the Falcons want to make sure he's 100 percent healed:
"Sam’s been dealing with his knee all season long,’’ Smith said. "He’s fighting through it. We got him back out there after a four-or-five-week time period of allowing him to rest. He wasn’t ready to go this week. And, yes, it is a concern. When you can't go out and play consecutive games, you have to be concerned about it."
"Sam’s doing everything that he can in terms of getting back out there. We want to make sure that he’s 100 percent before we put him back out there on the football field.’’
However, the Falcons can't wait all season for something like this to just continue to get worse. Atlanta needs to just put the big man on injured reserve and let him heal up before coming back next season at 100 percent. In the meantime, the Falcons could use this opportunity to get reps for Schraeder and Holmes.
They can build legitimate depth on the offensive line and at least see what they have in terms of depth. At the very worst, getting back a fully-healed Baker is the most important thing for next season. And if Schraeder can prove to be a legitimate backup and swing tackle, that's just icing on the cake.
- UPDATE: 6:19 PM 11/12/13 -
Sam Baker was placed on injured reserve by the team according to the official website.
- End Update -
Could Schraeder surprise like Paul Worrilow did?
Rookies are still football players. They are still guys who can contribute to an NFL team, and much like Falcons leading tackler Paul Worrilow, Schraeder could contribute to the Falcons as a rookie. Atlanta Falcons.com's Jay Adams quoted Worrilow about his thoughts on the losing season:
“You look at yourself in the mirror. Everybody looks at themselves. I might be a rookie, but I’m still a football player. Nobody loves to lose,” Worrilow said. “Everybody wants to be the best they physically, possibly can be out on the field. It’s going to be a gut-check that everybody elevate their game. It’s no one individual’s fault. Football’s a collective effort.”
And this is a true gem. Everyone is going to give their best effort to make the team better as a collective whole. Worrilow has shown that a rookie undrafted free agent could surprise. Especially considering he was only offered one contract coming out of college.
So, why wouldn't the massive offensive tackle be able to do the same thing if given a legitimate opportunity?
At this point in the season, what can you really lose?
Worst case scenario, Schraeder looks so bad that you have to pull him and put in an average Jeremy Trueblood. Best case scenario, Schraeder looks like another Pro Bowl player at left tackle, and Holmes can move back to right tackle full-time.
Let Lamar Holmes develop with maximum snaps
With a choice between Holmes or the veteran Trueblood as a starter opposite Schraeder for this plan, the Falcons need to stick with the first-year starter in Holmes. He's the long term starter for the Falcons line to replace Tyson Clabo.
Despite being rated the third-worst tackle in the league by Pro Football Focus, the Falcons 2012 third-round pick has been showing that he's got great potential as a starter in the NFL. He is playing like the first-year starter that he is but has shown improvement every game.
One thing to note is that in his first game ever starting at left tackle, he turned in the worst performance of the year. And in his first game ever starting—which was at right tackle—he turned in the second-worst performance of the season.
But taking out those two games would make him look like a legitimately talented tackle on both sides of the line. His run blocking has improved tremendously over the past two games to where he looks like someone who'll be a good long-term starter at right tackle.
The experience he is getting at left tackle against opposing team's best pass rushers is only going to help the Falcons long-term in overall pass protection. If Baker doesn't recover from his injury, the Falcons could even look into having Holmes be the left tackle long-term.
And that's not as scary as it seems. Giving Schraeder experience to allow a true competition with a potentially re-signed Mike Johnson for the right tackle role in 2014 would, at a minimum, make sure the Falcons don't have to make an emergency signing of a guy like Trueblood next season.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.