The Washington Times - November 29, 2013, 01:18PM

Chris Baker began playing defensive end this past spring, understanding that in his fifth season in the NFL, it’d be an additional way for him to earn his way onto the field.

His versatility appears as though it may have finally paid off. The Washington Redskins placed starting defensive end Stephen Bowen on injured reserve on Tuesday with chronic right knee pain, leaving Baker and veteran Kedric Golston in line to assume Bowen’s role.

“I’ve been wanting to play a lot more, so I’m happy to get this opportunity,” Baker said. “I’m ready to go, ready to roll.”

Golston started and played 30 snaps on Monday in the Redskins’ 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Baker, who was told he’d be the starter last week, played 31. At no point during the course of the game did he feel fatigued, which gave him confidence that he could handle an expanded role.

Bowen, the starter on the right side since before the 2011 season, tore the PCL in his right knee in the Redskins’ victory over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 20. He attempted to play through the tear, but after feeling soreness in the knee two weeks ago, an examination showed that he had also torn cartilage in the knee that may require surgery.

“It’s frustrating, because you want to finish what you start, and that’s the mindset that he has,” Golston said. “No matter how bad the season is going, you want to finish what you started, and so for him to have to be away from us, [it’s unfortunate], but he’s got to be healthy, and that’s the most important thing for him right now is getting healthy so he can continue to have a long career.”

Golston started 13 games in 2010, the first year the Redskins converted to a 3-4 defense. A reserve the last two seasons, he started the first four games this season while Jarvis Jenkins was suspended four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Jenkins, who has been gently eased back onto the field, had the first full sack of his career against San Francisco. With Bowen out, he said, he expects opponents to run the ball more frequently toward Golston and Baker; the 49ers ran to the left side 12 times and to the right 10 times on Monday.

“They’re gonna get a lot of runs, just like they did last game,” Jenkins said. “There was a lot of runs to that side, and you know, they did a great job holding it off. I don’t think there’s going to be a drop off. We’re veterans. We’re pros. Like [coach Mike] Shanahan says, you prepare like you’re starting, so it’s kind of good that we’re got guys in here that can step up and get the job done.”

Baker played his senior season at Hampton, where he was a defensive end in a 3-4 defense. While that year primed him for the responsibilities he’d face now in his third season with the Redskins, he wasn’t matching offensive linemen and the concepts were far different.

“He’s developed ever since he’s been here,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “When he got here, he was kind of a raw guy that didn’t understand the scheme, and he’s getting better and better. He’s athletic. You’d like to have him thump a little bit more because he’s so athletic, and he wants to use that all the time, but I think once in a while, when you’re in there in a 3-4, you have to be a thumper. He does it, and other times, he’s very athletic for a 330-pound guy. We just want a little more thumping out of the guy and be a little more aggressive in the run game, but in the pass game, he’s quick to react to that.”

Baker originally feared the switch from nose tackle, where he played the last two seasons, would be tough. But the 6-foot-2, 333-pound Baker believes he’s handled it well. In the game against the Bears, he had the first sack of his career.

“I thought it would be more of a difficult transition, but I’m pretty athletic,” Baker said. “The transition was a little bit easier than I thought, but it still wasn’t easy. I’m still learning stuff as we go. But it wasn’t as difficult as I originally thought it would be.”