Second-year nose tackle Chris Neild says he’s “a little more relaxed” than he was at this point last year, and from a familiarity standpoint, that may be true. He possesses a better understanding of the Redskins’ defensive scheme and his position’s role in it. He knows the coaches and what they expect.
But from a competition standpoint, Neild is being challenged for a roster spot by third-year nose tackle Chris Baker, who spent all but a few hours of last season on the team’s practice squad.
“Competition is going to bring the best or the worst out of you,” Neild said. “We’re both battling really well together. [Baker] has been playing his butt off out there, playing in some nickel situations and whatnot. It’s going to be a battle, but we’re both working really hard and we’ll see how these games go.”
Neild’s first opportunity to demonstrate his development to the coaching staff in a game is a week away, when the Redskins open the preseason at Buffalo. After recording two sacks and a forced fumble during the 2011 season opener, Neild did not record another sack the rest of the year.
He said he focused primarily on improving his pass-rushing technique and quickness this past offseason. Baker, however, has been a more disruptive presence on the defensive line in camp this summer.
Though Neild played as a reserve in every game last season, he posted multiple tackles just once after the Redskins’ season-opening win over the New York Giants. Neild wants to show he can be more consistent this year, but in order to secure that opportunity, he’ll have to keep Baker from taking his role.
“These coaches want to see how guys think out there in the heat and under pressure and whatnot,” Neild said. “Especially in a game situation, as Buffalo will be, I think that’s when they’ll make their evaluations of players.”