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Why Chris Baker Is Washington Redskins' X-Factor in Week 2

Published by Bleacher Report on Thu, 11 Sep 2014

After an underwhelming start to the regular season, the Washington Redskins head back to the drawing board as they prepare to face the 0-1 Jacksonville Jaguars. Barry Cofield was a major factor at nose tackle against the Houston Texansbut was placed on short-term IR with a high ankle sprain.In Cofield's place, Chris Baker will be the X-factor for the Redskins against Jacksonville.Not only is nose tackle a difficult position to play, but it is a difficult position to get any sort of credit for playing well. Cofield, a natural 4-3 defensive tackle, had to learn the position and be successful from the start.Baker made some big plays at nose tackle last season before being switched to defensive end this past offseason and earning a starting role opposite Jason Hatcher.Washington's defense didn't generate the mountains of sacks it is capable of with Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo and Hatcher, but it controlled the line of scrimmage against Houston, and that starts with the man in the middle.Baker is a big-bodied lineman with quickness to get to his spot before his opponent can get there or stop him. He can control space, eat up space and create havoc in the backfield from the lowly nose tackle position.Simply put, as Baker or anyone playing nose tackle goes, so too does the point of attack for the defense.One of the weaknesses of Washington's defense last season was the interior, which suffered through Cofield's limited play as a result of a broken hand. Add in Stephen Bowen's injury on the outside and Jarvis Jenkins' inconsistency, and the front three was pretty easy to push around.Baker's strongest performances have come in short-yardage and goal-line situations, but over time, he has improved his play as a part of the regular defense.Though Baker's statistical output for the game may be minimal, his impact on the game will be astronomical if he controls the middle of the line.If Jacksonville is overly concerned with containing Baker, dedicating a double-team in the middle to stopping his penetration or control, it makes for single matchups on the outside.If Hatcher only has to deal with one blocker and maybe a chip from a tight end, he's going to get a sack. If Orakpo and Kerrigan can pin their ears back against a single blocker, they're going to get sacks.Jacksonville running back Toby Gerhart is currently limited by an ankle injury, which means the Jags' pass protection is going to either have to sub Gerhart out for a lesser blocking back or dedicate another blocker to blitzers and late rushers.Baker controlling, or dictating, the middle of the line means Jacksonville will have to spend more time and man power focusing on his presence as opposed to trying to halt the immense pass pressure the Redskins are capable of applying.It becomes an even bigger problem for the Jaguars when the Redskins begin to rotate linemen and move them around the formation.Hatcher or Jenkins could be moved down inside in some packages, with Baker moving to defensive end. Change in position doesn't change what he can do. It does add the potential for Hatcher and Jenkins to create different problems on the inside.For the Redskins defense to succeed, it needs to put a stop to Chad Henne under center.Without Gerhart, or with Gerhart limited, more responsibility is going to be put on Henne to win games with his arm. While he is capable of making plays, he can't do everything himself.Unlike Houston, who can count on Arian Foster to shoulder the load from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jacksonville has Henne and little else. If Henne's on his back or running for his life because of the pass rush, the Jaguars offense isn't going to be moving the ball much.While other players may have a more tangible effect on the game, whether it be on the scoreboard or with catches, carries, yards and interceptions, Baker's impact is one that will be felt throughout the game.Every run stuffed, every free rusher missed, every sack from one-on-one blocks on the outside. Baker's control of the middle of the line will play a part in every defensive success or failure.
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