When the Redskins signed a handful of defensive linemen this offseason, it wasn’t immediately clear what impact the additions would have on Chris Baker’s role.
Now it’s clear.
Baker took it as a challenge, raised his game and is on pace for a career year.
“I think he’s been our most disruptive lineman, which is good,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said this week. “He’s been good in the pass rush, and obviously in the run game. He gets great penetration.”
Baker ranks among the Redskins’ top playmakers on defense, having amassed 3.5 sacks (tied with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for tops on the team), two forced fumbles (second on the team) and five tackles for loss (two more than anyone else).
Entering Sunday’s game against the undefeated Patriots, Baker is ranked as the sixth best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL by ProFootballFocus.com. PFF also credits Baker with five quarterback hits, six pressures and 16 ‘stops’, which the website defines as solo tackles that constitute an offensive failure.
Baker’s surge in productivity also has led to more playing time. In fact, he’s started two of the past three games after being used primarily as a reserve in the first four contests. Overall, he ranks second among Redskins’ defensive linemen in playing time (behind Jason Hatcher).
As pleased as the Redskins are with Baker’s emergence, however, the coaching staff believes his athleticism makes him capable of even more.
“The great challenge for him is can he do it on a consistent basis?” Gruden said. “I tell all our guys, you take one play off against these guys, man, and you’ll be trying to get ready to block the extra point. It’s going to be a matter of getting these guys consistently coming out of their stances with great pad level, getting after the quarterback, getting off blocks. Chris has done an outstanding job of that so far. We need it more consistent moving forward.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry echoed Gruden’s sentiments.
"Chris has done a great job,” he said. “He has played well and he has got to continue to play well for us. You need interior disruption in your defensive line and I think [Hatcher] has been disruptive. Maybe [Hatcher] doesn't have the sexy numbers, but I think both of those guys have been disruptive.”
Barry added: “I don't care what kind of front you play. I don't care if you're a 3-4 front, 4-3 front, an odd front, an under front, an over front. Your interior has to be disruptive. So, Bake has done a nice job. We challenge him every day. We want more. We're greedy. And he's taken that challenge and really ran with it this season.”
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