In the coming weeks, Redskins reporter Tarik El-Bashir will examine five candidates to break out in 2014. We’ve already looked at tight end Jordan Reed, cornerback David Amerson, kicker Kai Forbath and running back Roy Helu Jr.
Today, we’re looking at defensive lineman Chris Baker.
2013 stats: 28 combined tackles, including five stuffs and one sack
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
2013 in review: At 6 foot 2, 333-pounds, Baker has the ability to line up at both nose tackle and defensive end—and, last season, he enjoyed a career year while playing a little of both.
Baker was used primarily as Barry Cofield’s backup at nose the first 11 weeks, but played more at end later in the campaign as injuries mounted. In fact, with Stephen Bowen sidelined with a knee injury, Baker got the first three starts of his career in Weeks 15-17.
In 15 games, the 26-year-old established career highs in tackles (28) and recorded the first sack of his career, a take down of Jay Cutler that sent Cutler to injured reserve with a groin muscle injury. Baker also recorded five quarterback hits, which ranked third on the team behind Cofield and Brian Orakpo, according to ProFootballFocus.com
Baker’s best performance of the campaign came in the finale when he notched a career-high seven tackles, including three for loss.
2014 outlook: Baker is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next month after playing on a one-year, $1.3 million contract last season. At the Senior Bowl last month, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Baker one of the team’s top priorities to get under contract.
Assuming Baker is retained and the Redskins don’t sign a veteran starter in free agency, he figures to be in the mix to earn a full-time job this offseason.
Baker has good strength and athleticism and plays with an edge. He’s also got a knack for getting to the quarterback—something the Redskins’ defensive line has struggled to accomplish the past two seasons.
All that, combined with the experience he gained late last season, makes him a solid candidate to break out next season.
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