OK, IH8, I admit you stole the words right out of our mouths after the game when you uttered, your four words, "Chris mother effin Baker."
Or, if you prefer, "Swaggy" Baker. He's also known to all of us as the guy who's been drawing laughs truffle-shuffling to disrupt the Redskins kickers' concentration. That being said, take a look at Baker's recent workout picture:
Backalishious swaggy mc swag swaginstagr.am/p/MLxBHALHKg/— Chris Baker (@cbaker92redskin) June 22, 2012
The camera doesn't lie. Chris Baker is in the best shape of his nascent NFL career. He was in Leesburg this entire off-season rehabbing his quad and strengthening and conditioning with Jarvis Jenkins. The grind, designed by Redskins strength coach Ray Wright, included lots of swimming and exercises designed to (1) help the joints, (2) gain explosiveness and (3) build considerable endurance. Chris gave himself a big advantage heading into camp by putting himself through two-a-days before camp started.
Multiple observers noticed Baker as one of the most active young defensive linemen in training camp. We heard about his increased explosiveness. We were told he was winning battles with reserves and starters alike in one-on-one drills. Even in the 11-on-11 portions of practice, where it's difficult to stand out, multiple people constantly remarked how consistently "disruptive" he was (in a good way for a change on a Redskins team. Ha ha.) The multitude of Skins fanatics who trekked to Buffalo said Bills fans kept asking them, "Who's #92?"
That's a good question.
Here's a video interview of Swaggy discussing his increased role on defense now that Chris Neild is done for the season (VIDEO): http://www.redskins.com/media-gallery/videos/Chris-Baker-8-15/cf9f43b5-38c3-438d-bfe3-f55394acc68a
But what does the head coach say?:
Mike Shanahan: "Any time a guy comes in at 350, 350-plus [one season] and he’s down to 320, 325 [in training camp] in excellent football shape, you know he’s dedicated and wants to play. I’ve seen tremendous strides out of Chris, and he’s got a big upside."
and, what's the D's on-field leader have to say:
"I think he’s really maturing and learning the defense. ...He’s doing some things that really impresses us." - London Fletcher
DCoordinator Jim Haslett has stated it's a priority this season to keep NT Cofield healthy and fresh by playing Cofield less - and the backup more. Baker is expected to play this role. But we're likely to see even more of Baker beyond that because #92 doesn't only play NT, he plays DE too. Sure, he's got the strength and power to overwhelm centers, but his quickness allows him to be an effective end. Reportedly he's played well at both positions in training camp. More importantly, he played well at both spots against Buffalo. At Buffalo Chris played nose tackle and lined up at DE when the other Chris was playing nose.
Considering youngster Neild has continued to flash in camp and, more importantly, against Buffalo recorded a sack, 2 unassisted tackles and drew a hold, the Skins are likely to keep Baker and Neild. (08/16 - Truck Neild out for season with torn ACL. Errrrgh.)
But this post isn't about Neild's performance or Chris Baker's versatility. It's about Baker's performance, and in case you couldn't believe your eyes, here's what others are seeing:
"Chris Baker is a menace. I started counting the plays he's blown up and then lost count. He's not only going to make the team, he's going to be a force." - Diesel44
"NT Chris baker is in the backfield quite a bit this camp." - John Keim
"Baker has worked at left end, nose tackle and nickel. Heck, maybe he’s worked at right end too and I haven’t seen it. Regardless, he’s showing that he can play end or tackle." - John Keim
"Carrying over strong practices. NT Chris Baker is killing center Colin Brown in the goal line stand. Staying low and pushing him back." - Rich Campbell
"Nose tackle Chris Baker just makes plays and clogs lanes. What you saw tonight is what we’ve seen most of training camp. He was instrumental in the goal-line stand, not just with his ability to clog the middle. He didn’t make the tackle, but his strength inside made the play". - John Keim
"Chris Baker just ate Vince Young for dinner." - Jake Russell
"Chris Baker made his presence known against the Bills, earning two tackles — one for a loss — and one quarterback hit. When he wasn’t making the play, he was often finding his way into the backfield and causing other teammates to make a play." - Redskins.com
"Chris Baker is a big guy. ...Baker was taking on two blockers most of his snaps, even when he played out at defensive end, with Neild at nose tackle. He'd quite often push them back or even beat the two blockers as well. He's much more of a presence in the run game as well. I'm eager to see him against a first string offensive line." - Mark Bullock
"WOW! This kid plays with some fire.........and I love it! Baker lined up at both nose tackle and defensive end, and showed well at both spots, collapsing the pocket, and spending the majority of his snaps eating up double teams, and pitching his tent in the Bills backfield. His play on the goal-line was most impressive. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in defensive film sessions today, just to hear the praise that will be showered on him. All I can say is: WHAT A FIND!" - Tiller56
"The performances of guys like Jarvis Jenkins, Chris Baker and Chris Neild -- especially at the goal line -- showed why the Redskins consider the defensive line a strength of their team. They should be stout against the run and able to create pressure with their defensive front, which also should take some pressure off the secondary" .- Dan Graziano
What's truly exciting is this is in addition to the Redskins entire starting front seven being back for a second consecutive season. We just watched that front 7 destroy Buffalo's offensive line.
History: If you're wondering what happened to Chris Baker last season, he tore his quad the week he was activated. The odd thing is it didn't happen on the field. He tore it going up for a jam on the B-ball court. Yea, despite his 325+ pounds, Chris Baker's athleticism allows him to leap 35" vertically (as officially measured at the NFL Combine.)
I might as well mention his junior season at Penn State Baker led their defensive tackles in exactly that: defensive tackles. That Penn State D ranked 7th in the nation in run defense. His senior year Chris was at Hampton University. Chris made the highest tackles among the defensive line, 69. He had 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries.
Not that it matters one iota now that Chris Baker is playing in the NFL and continuing to develop, but just in case you're interested, here's what Scouting Sites reported as his positives coming into the league:
"Adequate build in the upper and lower body. ... Good quickness off the snap. ... Gets his hands into his man's jersey quickly, attacks a shoulder and constantly works to the quarterback. ... Can also extend his arms inside the numbers to get leverage and push into the backfield. ... Also able to stand up his man on run plays, use his upper-body strength to move him to either side and make a play on the ball. ... Uses arm-over move and violent hands to shoot the gap inside. ... Will split double-team blocks to pressure the passer. ... At end, he held his ground against the run and used his strength, hands and quickness to get by offensive tackles one-on-one. ... Shows fairly quick feet, can stay off cut blocks, chase down the line and hustle downfield to get to the ball. ... Doesn't back down from anyone... Intelligent leader, president of high school senior class of 400."
Here's more on Baker's assets and skillset, courtesy of skinsaholic56: Tales from the Sunnyside: Chris Baker
This year Chris Baker was heading into his fourth season in the league and coming off an injury. Every self-proclaimed realist no doubt predicted the rest of "The Chris Baker Story" would turn out like a Eugene O'Neill play. Namely the character would struggle to maintain his hopes and aspirations but would ultimately slide into despair and failure. Hmmm...I guess I don't have much of an appreciation for the work of Nobel laureate playwrights. I'd rather watch the plays of Chris "Swaggy" Baker.