by Peter Smith
A year after being a 7th round pick by the San Diego Chargers, former Michigan State running back Edwin Baker was reunited with his former head coach Norv Turner. The Browns released Caleb Hanie and signed the young back off of the Houston Texans practice squad; a place they have gone to earlier in this season. Baker seemed excited to be back with Turner and was looking forward to get an opportunity in Cleveland and back in this offense. In his first game of his career, Baker ran for 38 yards on 8 carries while catching 4 passes for 46 yards and his first NFL touchdown.
What made Baker stood out was how decisive and explosive he was. He had a run for 15 yards and a reception for 16 yards that looked like they were at a different speed from what the Browns and fans were accustomed. This is something that the Browns had not seen since Dion Lewis went down with a broken leg and since last year when Montario Hardesty would come in relief for a laboring Trent Richardson.
This season, since the Richardson trade, the Browns have primarily relied on bigger, slower backs including Willis McGahee and Chris Ogbannaya. They have had some backs in that were quicker but not find success in their opportunities such as Bobby Rainey and Fozzy Whittaker. Rainey went to Tampa where he had a monster game but has largely been average for the most part.
Baker could come back to Earth much the way Rainey did in Tampa, but he made a great first impression in his first professional game. It would appear the evolving roster concept that some were rabidly opposed has yielded some nice results, even if for just one game. Baker will have hopefully two more games to showcase what he can do as he makes an argument to stick on the roster next year; a group that could include Lewis and a player likely to be selected in the NFL Draft. At least in 12 opportunities he had, Baker looked like he could be depth and a nice change of pace if he can continue running with type of confidence.
The Bears running defense is the worst in the league, so the enthusiasm for the performance as it pertains to his overall future in the league is a bit restrained, but Baker should be thrilled and excited for more. Next week, the Browns play the New York Jets on the road and it will be a far more difficult defense to run on, but it seems like a good bet that Baker will find a decent amount of opportunities to make plays after 84 total yards (7 yards per touch) and a touchdown this week.