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D-Line Reserves Ready To Fill The Void


With Tuesday's news that the Redskins have lost nose tackle Chris Neild for the season, the defense will need to find another player to step up and fill his void in the front-seven.

Neild was listed as the primary backup to Barry Cofield at nose tackle on the coaches' preseason depth chart.  Filling his spot moving forward, the team will be counting on Chris Baker, who was a training camp sensation, and a pupil of Cofield last season.

"It's a big opportunity for me to step up and be the player that I know I can be," Baker said.  "I hate to see Chris [Neild] go down the way it happened, but when one man goes down another man has to step up.  I've just got to step up and do what I can do."

After playing on three teams in three years, Baker understands that injury is nothing more than opportunity.  If he wants to find a home in the Redskins' defense, he will have to earn it on the practice fields.

"It's just another chance for me to step up and keep playing," Baker said.  "If I don't perform now they'll still bring another guy in, so I've just got to make sure I stay on top of my game."

Other linemen on the roster with nose tackle experience include Kedric Golston, Doug Worthington, Delvin Johnson, Darrion Scott, and Jarvis Jenkins. 

Head coach Mike Shanahan said there was a possibility that the defensive ends could get snaps at nose tackle, but he would probably defer to the players with experience playing inside.

"Chris [Baker] has an opportunity to show us what he can do, and hopefully he takes advantage of that," said head coach Mike Shanahan.  "We have a lot of guys that could come inside, but the guys that have been working there, obviously you'd like to give them the most reps.

"But we have the ability to have some guys come inside and play if we have to."

Regardless of who lines up over center, confidence remains high for a productive front-seven.  Defensive end Stephen Bowen expressed confidence in the roster's depth and versatility along the defensive line.

"If somebody goes down, somebody can pick it right back up."  Bowen explained.  "Baker, I'm sure he's going to play just as good as Barry [Cofield], and I'm sure they're going to try to move somebody else in."

Between now and the start of the regular season, the unit looks to build on the cohesion witnessed in preseason Game 1 vs. the Bills.

"Everything is reaction now; nobody's really thinking too much," Bowen said. "Everyone trusts that everybody else is going to do their job.

"We're playing with high confidence and we expect to be a great defense this year."




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