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Chris Baker: 'Each Year They Gave Me More'

Posted Aug 13, 2014

After starting his Redskins career on the practice squad, Chris Baker has continued to work his way up the depth chart, and this year should be a major contributor once again.

Chris Baker’s rise from practice squad member to being one of the key members of a revamped Washington Redskins defensive line hasn’t been easy. 

But by continually proving effective when given opportunities and employing a never give up mentality, Baker has worked his way into the line rotation.

“I always kept my faith in God, you know, I just always prayed every day that I could get a chance to show my ability and little by little I got tested a little bit more,” Baker told Larry Michael, Voice of the Washington Redskins. “Each year they gave me more and more playing time until the point where they just threw me out and let me do what I do. 

“That showed how good I can play."

Baker appeared in a career-high 15 games last season, logging 27 tackles and his first-career sack against Chicago in Week 7.

Early in the second quarter of a seven-point game, Baker broke through the Bears’ offensive line and found quarterback Jay Cutler alone in the backfield. Unable to free himself from the 325-pound lineman’s clutches, Culter was thrown to the ground.

The play set the tone for a series that would go three-and-out.

Baker’s production would eventually merit receiving his first career start as well, as he would crack the starting 11 for the final three games of the season.

After re-signing this offseason, Baker's – who is listed as the first-team left defensive end on the unofficial depth chart -- upsurge has concurred with a budding role as a leader for the younger players that are in his shoes when he was trying to stick in the NFL.

"Oh yeah, I try to be a leader at any time I see a lot of guys who was in the same position as me,” Baker said. “Guys who were undrafted, they look to me like 'Chris, how'd you get this contract?' and I'm just like ‘You got to be patient and you got to listen to the coaches. You won't play when you want to play, but when you get that opportunity make sure you take advantage of it.’"

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has given him those opportunities partially due to the fact his athleticism is so uncommon for a guy his size. 

“I think he’s done a nice job," Haslett told the media during training camp. "He’s very athletic and he’s another guy that was a young guy coming out and needed to grow up a little bit. He’s done a nice job and understands the scheme. Athletic-wise, those guys are kind of hard to find. He’s 325 pounds and he can run. He’s fun to be around – he really is. He’s a lovable guy, I love the guy, I love being around him, you’ve got to get him focused once and awhile, but he’s a heckuva football player.” 

Baker's growth hasn’t just happened during the season, though.

Jay Gruden -- who was named the Redskins' head coach in January -- has seen progress in Baker even in the past eight-plus months.

“He’s playing with a lot of energy and he has been a force to be reckoned with for our offensive linemen,” Gruden said during training camp. “I like where he’s moving for this season to get started. He’s just got to maintain his weight and continue to play with great pad level…He’s just one of those defensive linemen you throw in there that really are very good against the run. He has really improved in his pass rush skills also, which is what we need.

“We need another pass rusher on the inside. He’s starting to become one of those guys that can not only stop the run but also be a force in the passing game," Gruden said.

Transition From College
Baker admits that one of the biggest adjustments from college to the NFL for him was understanding where he stood in the pecking order.

“Yeah, without a question,” Baker said when asked about if he wasn’t quite ready when he first appeared in the NFL. “Everyone is coming into the NFL as 'the guy' in college, and then as soon as you get into the NFL it's just like you're just one of the normal guys. You're not 'the guy' for the most part.”

Baker played his senior season at Hampton University after transferring from Penn State, and posted team bests in tackles (69) and sacks (8.5).

Despite his efficient play, though, Baker went undrafted in 2008. He would catch on with the Denver Broncos as a college free agent during rookie minicamp and eventually appeared in one game.  

Certainly a difficult situation for someone that was a talented college player, those hardships are now reaping long-term benefits for Baker.

“You have to learn how to mature and how to deal with the adversity of not being able to play as soon as you get here,” the defensive lineman said. “You just have to be patient and wait on your turn.

“When you get your turn you just have to take advantage of it.”





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