When training camp began three weeks ago, Chris Baker was the Redskins third string nose tackle.Now hes the backup and he has a chance to get some substantial playing time for the first time in his three-year NFL career.This is a big opportunity for me to step up and be the player I know I can be, Baker said Wednesday. I hate to see Chris go down, but when one man goes down another man has to step up.Baker was referring to Chris Neild, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during Monday. On Wednesday, Baker backed up Barry Cofield in practice.Although a few players, including Jarvis Jenkins, are able to line up at nose tackle, Shanahan hinted that its Bakers job to lose. Delvin Johnson, who is also listed as a nose tackle, appears to be a long shot to make the 53-man roster.When you get a guy that goes down, Chris has more of an opportunity to show us what he can do, Shanahan said. And hopefully he takes advantage of that opportunity.Baker said hes spent the past 10 months preparing for the challenge.The 24-year-old out of Hampton spent the first three months of last season on the Redskins practice squad. He was activated on Dec. 7, but only a few hours later, tore a quadriceps muscle and finished the season on injured reserve.Baker, who makes his home in Northern Virginia, spent the entire offseason working out at LA Fitness in Leesburg with Jenkins, who was rehabbing a surgically repaired knee. Their rigorous regimen included high repetitions with light free weights and swimming.The goal of the carefully crafted workouts was increased endurance. And that figures to help Bakers cause because defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has said he hopes to play Cofield a little less and the backup a little more in an effort to keep Cofield fresher.Hes probably in the best shape hes been in, Shanahan said of Baker, who was 350 when he arrived in Washington and now is listed at 6 foot 2, 333-pounds. Hes really looked impressive and hopefully he can keep on doing that in the preseason games.
The Redskins report to training camp on July 24th, and for the next 10 days, JP Finlay will count down the 10 biggest questions the Redskins face going into the 2019 season.
When a team picks in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft, folks around the NFL expect that player to become a Pro Bowler. For Washington, that exact scenario unfolded with right guard Brandon Scherff.
Selected fifth overall in 2015, the Redskins took Scherff to play right tackle and anchor the offensive line opposite Trent Williams. That idea quickly faded, helped by the emergence of Morgan Moses, and Scherff moved inside to play guard. For four years, it's worked out great, with Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017.
Scherff is a mauler in the best sense of the word. He has great footwork and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has called the former Iowa Hawkeye the best pulling guard in the NFL. Scherff is strong and nasty, words that won't win beauty pageants but absolutely win in the trenches of the NFL.
Considering all of that, a contract extension for Scherff should be easy. Right?
Currently in the final year of his rookie deal, multiple reports stretching over the last six weeks indicate that the organization is way off in their extension offers to Scherff. He might not command the biggest contract in the league, but he will get paid like a top three guard. In 2019, that means a lot of money.
Cowboys guard Zach Martin makes $14 million a year. Jaguars guard Andrew Norwell makes $13.3 million a year. Scherff might not get to Martin's salary, but he will probably get to Norwell, whether Washington pays it or not.
That means the Redskins need to pony up the cash now because as each day passes, the team is approaching an ugly set of options. Scherff and his representatives might continue to negotiate during the season, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Once free agency becomes in view, players tend to wait for it. Just ask Kirk Cousins.
In fact, the situation between Scherff and the Redskins has some resemblance to the Cousins saga from a few years ago.
In that case, Washington low-balled their homegrown quarterback in their first set of negotiations. From there, things went sideways, and the team used consecutive franchise tags on Cousins before he finally left via free agency.
If the Redskins can't get a deal done with Scherff, the team could use a franchise tag in 2020. But that's a dangerous game of roulette.
The time to get a deal done with Scherff is now, if not last month. Redskins team president has said in the past that deadlines drive deals, but with Scherff, there is no exact deadline. He can decide to stop working on a contract extension at any moment, particularly once the pads come on at training camp.
The Trent Williams holdout might be complicating things a bit, if Williams only wants more cash and the issue isn't about much more than that. The truth is a Scherff extension would actually free up cap space in the short term, as his signing bonus would be spread out over the life of the contract, and some of that salary cap relief could go to Williams right away.
Williams' status isn't the hold up between Scherff and the Redskins. Whatever is the actual holdup best be resolved soon. or the Redskins are beginning down an all too familiar franchise path.
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On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.
But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.
"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."
Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.
In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.
Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field.
In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.
For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.
"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.
"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."
Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.
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