The Washington Football Team seems to be very high on its defense entering the 2020 season and for good reason. They hired a defensive minded coach who brought in a defensive coordinator with a quality pedigree, and then added pieces to their defensive personnel via free agency and the draft. The defensive front seven, more specifically the defensive line, is expected to anchor a much improved Redskin defense. The Redskins have spent a first round draft pick on a defensive lineman four years straight, so it's definitely time for them to start reaping the benefits of those selections. I have addressed in previous articles how switching to the 4'3 defensive front could benefit certain members of the defensive line. Fourth year starter Jonathan Allen could be the biggest beneficiary of them all. Allen should be poised for a breakthrough season as all the stars are aligned for him to succeed. He has a quality defensive staff calling the sets, and he has more talent around him to take more pressure off, and get him in some one-on-one situations. With rookie Chase Young added into the fold, he will attract a lot of attention from opposing offenses, allowing others on the defensive line the opportunity to make some plays. Enter Jonathan Allen.
Allen was drafted 17th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft where some thought he was worthy of being a higher pick. He showed immediate flashes in his first weeks as a "Redskin" before he suffered a season ending injury in just his fifth NFL game. He fought back to return in 2018, and had a solid second season playing all 16 games and accumulating 8 sacks along the way. In 2019, he had a decent year that saw him finish with 6 sacks and some occasional plays made in the backfield. When Allen was drafted, the word that was thrown around was DOMINANT. We just haven't seen that type of player up to this point.
Is Allen solid? Yes.
Is he reliable? Yes.
Is he likable? Yes.
Is he dominant? No.
Jonathan Allen is in a pivotal season. The Redskins picked up his fifth year first round option which was a no-brainer, but he needs to step it up two notches this year, and be the force he was drafted to be. I won't go as far as to say he regressed last year as a player, but he was definitely less than impactful. He was very quiet in situations when the team needed a play to be made. He was also seemingly being blocked one-on-one, and was unable to beat the man in front of him in many situations, which is unacceptable for a player of his caliber.
In 2020, Washington needs to see Allen make his living in the opposing teams backfield. His name should be mentioned consistently by commentators week to week. It has been continually said that he is a leader on the field and in the locker room. Washington needs players on the field who are going to make plays; not players who are just going to talk about making them. I love Jonathan Allen as a player, and as a leader, but Washington needs to see more out of him if they want to reach defensive greatness. Great defenses have great players that raise the level of play of everybody around them, and that's the guy Washington needs Jonathan Allen to become. The locker room speeches are great. The interviews and speaking highly of your teammates and coaches are excellent. Saying all the right things and having a great work ethic is definitely the foundation for production. Washington just needs more from him. The burden is not solely on Allen, but he is without question the tone setter on that defensive line.
Some may read this article and disagree with my evaluation of Allen's play, and that's completely fine. Those that disagree are comparing him to previous Washington defensive linemen.
Who is the last DOMINANT defensive interior lineman that you remember the team drafting?
Don't worry...I'll wait.
The standard of interior defensive line play is being set by the likes of Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox. You watch a game when those guys are suited up and you know they are playing because you constantly hear their names throughout the entire game. I watch how the NFL's upper tier interior linemen are so disruptive in the opposing teams' backfield. I can't help but say to myself "this should be what Jonathan Allen is doing". I look Allen’s talent and I see Hall of Fame type potential. Right now, I’m seeing solid to above average player production. All that said, I fully expect Jonathan Allen to have a breakout year. I fully expect Jonathan Allen to be the anchor of that interior defensive line and maybe the entire defense this season. I fully expect Jonathan Allen to prove that he should be mentioned amongst the elite defensive linemen in the league going forward. I'm looking forward to it because it's going to be a domino effect and everybody on the Washington defense will feast off of his success and his energy. As you were...
This article is dedicated to Charod Oliphant...HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD.
Photo Credit: Steve Mitchell (USA Today)