I got in touch with several writers on the college football blogs. I wanted to get their thoughts on the Redskins newest draft picks and ask a few more revealing questions about how these players fit on the team and their chances of making an impact either immediately or down the line. Erik Evans of Roll ‘Bama Roll gave us some great information regarding new Redskin DE Jonathan Allen.
Cadillactica: Could you give us your impression of what the Alabama coaches thought of Allen?
Erik Evans: Jonathan Allen was absolutely adored in Tuscaloosa, and not just by fans. Coming from a military family, Allen was savvy, disciplined, and already acculturated to a team-first mentality. The intangibles he brought to the team don't show up on his impressive stat sheet. But, for the past two years, he was an unquestioned leader, a player that led in the locker room and in the press room, as much as he did on the field. In 2015, when Alabama was breaking in several new starters in the secondary, they were as afraid of having Allen correct them as they were being corrected by their coaches. Even for a Saban player, Allen is intense. You're getting a guy who's not going to take a play off and isn't going to let those around him do it either.
Cadillactica: Allen fell into the Redskins laps at #17 and every Redskin fan is grateful for him. The Redskins defensive line was horrid last year and Allen is a big upgrade. What do you think are his chances to make a big impact as a rookie rushing the passer playing the run?
Erik Evans: I'll cover this one a bit more below, but Jonathan Allen does have pass-rushing chops. He is a technician that is still very instinctive for his size. And, while he's a bigger defensive end, he has really good game day athleticism and a knack for getting inside the tackle. He is powerful, but may not be so overwhelming that he is going to blast NFL tackles off the line as he did in college. If he is placed in a 3-4, he is perfectly suited for weakside though. I would expect to see some productivity drop-off owing to increase in competition, but he will still be productive. With respect to the run, Allen, like all Alabama defensive linemen, is first and foremost a two-gap run stuffer though he will need to improve on his outside technique if placed in a 4-3 scheme (and he has spent the last year doing so.) He is also a sure tackler that can make the solo stuff or turn the play inside.
Cadillactica: A lot has been speculated and deduced about Alabama defensive players and their transition to the pros. A common strawman is that Bama players are a bit overrated because just about every guy on defense has the potential to be a high draft pick. What do you make of that regarding Allen? Is he as good as advertised or was he elevated because of the team around him?
Erik Evans: Allen is as good as advertised. With all due respect to the only guy in his class, Derek Barnett, but Allen is the best, most versatile defensive lineman in this class, a guy who is capable of, and has played, both sides of the 3-4 and on the inside in Alabama's 4-3 sets and has excelled against a variety of offenses from all over the field. He was bandied about by some as a potential overall No. 1 draft pick, and certainly a top-5 pick most of the season. Only questions about his shoulders saved him from a career in, say, Jacksonville or Tennessee. Health permitting, and he has been medically cleared, he is an absolute steal.
Cadillactica: What would describe as his biggest strengths and weaknesses?
Erik Evans: His biggest strengths are sure-tackling, intelligence, leadership, toughness, versatility, and tenacity. He does have limitations, of course. I could be wrong, but I don't think he's a great fit to play the strong side in the NFL. When moved inside, he lacks the bulk to overpower double-teams and can be swallowed up on occasion. However, one player alone isn't neutralizing him all game. His arms are also a tad short, so he may struggle if he lets longer tackles get their mitts on him. However, his athleticism and savvy tend to negate that complaint. Finally, as noted above, he will need to work on his 6- and 9-tech when manning the outside.
Cadillactica: Some Redskins fans are worried that Allen's talents will be neutralized on a DL that most would consider being below average at best. With Allen certainly stepping in and claiming one of the starting DE spots what would you say is the biggest factor to his success in his rookie year? The DL talent around him? The effectiveness of the linebackers or secondary? Something else?
Erik Evans: Allen's success will largely be incremental. The first area of work will be polishing his outside pass rushing moves and becoming a more all-around pass-rusher. He is very versatile and athletic, so I don't see that one being much of a problem. The second measure of success will be how the linebackers perform. If, for instance, Allen is manning the weakside DE then don't look necessarily to his production, but look to the production of the guys behind him. If there are more stops at or near the LOS in the running game by the front seven, and if a guy like Ryan Anderson can produce pressures or sacks from the Jack, then it will have been a very efficient, successful rookie year.
Cadillactica: Could you sum up his play in a single word or phrase?
Erik Evans: Terrifying (God, I miss him already)
I don’t have much to say. I think we all are excited about what Jonathan Allen brings to the table and his potential. He is certainly a building block that I hope the team continues to build around with homegrown talent. Allen has the potential to be a force this year but as Erik said I think he will be helped out immensely if the Redskins linebackers are a force as well. I would also add I think it's somewhat critical for the rest of the Redskin defensive linemen to step up and wreak some havoc for this young man and in turn everyone on the front seven to win their one on one matchups.