Nose tackle Chris Baker didn’t want to win a job this way. Nor is he assuming he already has one just because Chris Neild is done for the season.
“It’s a sad situation,” Baker said. “Just another chance for me to step up and keep playing. If I don’t perform now they’ll bring another guy in.”
That’s true, but Baker’s play clearly has gained him attention this summer. He played well in the preseason opener vs. Buffalo, which was a continuation of his performance early in training camp.
Baker is in much better shape than a year ago when he was cut for weighing around 350 pounds. He’s now around 320. One reason: he worked out at LA Fitness in Leesburg with Jarvis Jenkins, doing a lot of exercises in the pool to help the joints and gain explosiveness.
He’s also not going to dunk any more basketballs, which is how he pulled his quad the same week he was finally activated from the practice squad. Baker never appeared in a game.
“We were having a walk-through practice in the game and Markus White caught a couple dunks and I said I can dunk too,” Baker said. “I went to go try and jump and I didn’t get a chance to get off the ground. Soon as I squatted my quad just tore.
“I was very nervous when it happened. Are they gonna keep me or cut me?”
But they kept him and now he could be part of a line that has excellent depth. The Redskins want to limit Barry Cofield’s snaps, which they can do in their 3-4 look as well as in their nickel package. Jenkins is a big key to that, but Baker will be as well.
“He has great power. I think he’s really matured since last year unbelievably,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “I still think he has a ways to go in learning the scheme and techniques. But he’s got a lot of the little attributes you look for that the great ones have, those guys, the [Vince] Wilforks in New England have. They’re athletic. They’re powerful. They do a lot of different things. Now those guys are ones that have made plays, and he hasn’t. But he has those traits. Whether he can bring it out all the time, we’ll see. But he’s made great strides from last year.”
Baker’s also a bit of a character. During practice Tuesday, with no fans, Baker motioned for crowd noise as they lined up with the offense inside its own 2-yard line.
“I’ve always been like that ever since I was little,” Baker said. “I’ve been the loud person or funny person. I try to stay loose and dance and crack jokes here and there. It helps me stay loose. To be uptight and tense and worried about this or that, you don’t play as good.”