Jets' Baker Coming Into His Own

The New York Jets dropped a heartbreaker in Cleveland two weeks ago when a last minute drive ended on a controversial call. Jets tight end Chris Baker made an outstanding grab along the sidelines, but was ruled out of bounds. It's not the first time Baker has made an athletic play. He's one of the rising stars in the division and often overlooked by opposing defenses.

Chris Baker's most spectacular grab of the season, and perhaps of his career, wasn't recognized by the officials.

Although replays showed he probably should have been credited with a one-handed 24-yard touchdown catch in the final minute against Cleveland on Oct. 29, he was judged to be out of bounds, and not forced out.

It also seems as if the Jets themselves haven't always recognized the fifth-year tight end's talents. At the season's midway point, he has only 15 receptions for 132 yards. He had 18 receptions in the first eight games of the 2005 season, but that is when his campaign ended because of a broken left fibula suffered against San Diego on Nov. 6. The injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.

He started 2006 with four receptions, including a touchdown, at Tennessee. But since then, he has been limited to one reception on four occasions and blanked in one game. Part of the problem is that he has had to stay in and help block sometimes.

"He has made some pretty athletic plays throughout the season," coach Eric Mangini said, "and some of those athletic plays are not catching the ball. Some of them are the way that he may help with an edge rusher, or some of it may be as a downfield blocker when he's out in space and has to block someone on the perimeter. You kind of lose track of those plays because he's not the primary guy there. But you see the athleticism."

"We've always known about Chris' ability to catch the football," first-year coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. "I think, when you look at what we're trying to do with the passing game, the ball is being thrown quickly. Obviously, (Laveranues) Coles is going to catch his fair share of balls, so is Jerricho Cotchery. We realize what Chris can do, and the more we face teams that want to play us two-shell coverage, the more he'll get involved. Baker has done a good job, we can hit him with a ball and probably need to do so" more often."

"He's a selfless guy," Mangini said. "Not a lot of tight ends consistently do the things that he does, and he does it without ever mentioning the fact that he would like more balls, and everybody would like more balls."

Baker, who spent the early years of his life in Queens, New York, before moving to Michigan, chose to re-sign as a free agent in the off-season.

He said, "Part of it was, I'm from here, and I like being here. Just talking with the coaches, especially Richie Anderson, he was real instrumental in me coming back. I have a working relationship with him. He was kind of like, when he was here before, a coaching figure to me, even though he was still playing. That was a big part of it. He helped me evaluate my game and things like that. I really didn't want to leave. I felt like I had things that I wanted to accomplish here. This was one of my favorite teams growing up. I didn't want to leave not having accomplished what I thought I should."

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