Continued from page 1

The results are noticeable. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Baker has a lot of the little attributes shared by great nose tackles such as Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots. At 325-330 pounds, he’s athletic and powerful now.

“I think he’s finally grown up,” Haslett said. I still think he has a ways to go in learning the scheme and techniques. But he has those traits. Whether he can bring it out all the time, we’ll see. But he’s made great strides from last year.”

Baker credited McKinnon for much of that. The trainer emphasized fundamental strength training as well as a diet high in protein and low in “starchy carbohydrates” and fat. Baker eats lots of bananas for potassium as well as egg whites, turkey bacon, oatmeal, chicken, and tuna fish.

“If I eat bad, I just have the type of body that I hold weight,” he said. “I’ve been working hard to keep the weight off, so it’s been working out for me.”

Baker has more energy, less body fat and more agility. After Haslett said the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos cut Baker in previous years because of his weight, he has it under control and is where the Redskins want him to be.

“I’d like a nose tackle to be 500 pounds if he can move, but you can’t move when you’re 500 pounds,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “You love a nose tackle to be 350 pounds that doesn’t have a lot of body [fat], that can move and play football. But we thought he’d be better in that 330 range, and he’s looked pretty good.”

Given Neild’s injury, and the presence of only one other defensive tackle on the roster in undrafted rookie Delvin Johnson, Baker’s showcase time is now.

“He has to take advantage of it,” Cofield said. ” You obviously never hope for anyone to get hurt, but when that happens, you’ve got to take advantage of that opportunity. We’re all pulling for Neild to bounce back and come back strong next year, but this is a great opportunity for Bake, and I’m happy for him.”