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Does 2019 UDFA DE Jonathan Bonner have a chance to crack the deep DL unit in Washington?

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Probably not

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Notre Dame vs Ohio State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve been doing player profiles of one sort or another for Hogs Haven for a few years now, and I’ve developed a certain rhythm to the process.

I start with a working headline that has key information like name, position, height, weight and school. Next I find a photo of the player to put on the front page.

Often, I don’t do anything else with the profile until I’m about to write it — which may be weeks or months after I first create the article blank, headline and photo — but when I am ready, I go to google and type in the player's name and the words “player profile”. Sometimes, if I don’t get immediate returns, I try variations, like “draft profile” or adding the name of a website such as Hogs Haven or 247 Sports.

With College Undrafted Free Agents, there exists a wide range in terms of the amount of information that pops up on simple searches. For example, when I did my Google search on Donald Parham last week, I had so many hits that my first task was to sort through them and eliminate the least useful ones.

Today, I initiated the search for Jonathan Bonner, and Google immediately challenged my spelling, so I checked. Yep... I had it right.

There were a few search returns, but they were all the basic ‘accumulator’ sites that simply grab information off of the web with the player’s name on it. I even got a few returns among the top-10 for players with different last names, which is never a good sign.

In the years that I’ve been putting together player profiles, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a black hole like the one I initially hit for Jonathan Bonner. I have a few facts for him, and I can infer a couple of things, but all I really know is that, outside of his own Twitter account, he doesn’t have a big footprint in the world of digital sports reporting - especially for a player from a major program like Notre Dame.


Click this link to access all 2018 and 2019 Undrafted Free Agent profiles on Hogs Haven

Let’s start with a couple of measurables for Bonner:

He’s listed on NFL.com at 6’4” and 295 pounds.

He played on the defensive line at Notre Dame for four years, accumulating 64 total tackles.

The Herald-Bulletin ran a story about the Fighting Irish Pro Day, and listed Bonner’s results.

A graduate senior in 2018, Bonner recorded 64 career tackles for Notre Dame. He was a regular fixture on a defensive line in 2018 that featured a rotation of Jerry Tillery, Julian Okwara, Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem.

Bonner ran the 40-yard dash in 4.96 seconds, which would’ve ranked in the top 10 of non-edge rushing defensive lineman at the Combine. He had a 32 1/2-inch vertical jump and ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.69 seconds.

Jonathan Bonner full pro day results

There is very little in the way of news about Bonner — perhaps not so surprising for a guy who averaged 16 tackles per season in his college career.

The one significant mention I did run across was on the SB Nation Fighting Irish site, One Foot Down.

In the fall of 2017, Jonathan Bonner had announced that he would be leaving football behind and move on to other things in his life. He had a change of heart, and decided to play his final year for the Irish, and just like that... Notre Dame had their starting defensive tackles set for the season.

There are two key ideas here. I’ll address the second one first.

The article mentions that the ND starting tackles were ‘set’ once Bonner decided to return to school in 2018. It’s probably worth mentioning that the other DT was Jerry Tillery, who was drafted 28th overall by the Chargers. Bonner had the blessing of being on the field with an extremely talented position-mate, and the curse of being on the field with a guy that would always outshine him.

The other key idea from that article is that Bonner initially “announced that he would be leaving football behind and move on to other things.” It’s not unusual to see a player toying with the idea of quitting the sport as a ‘red flag’ — after all, love of the game is usually seen as a key driver to success.

The article doesn’t say (and I couldn’t find any other source that gave a reason) why Bonner announced that he was done with the sport, but I think his Twitter feed might offer a clue.

In a 2017 GoFundMe tweet, Bonner describes his mother as a “two-time survivor of breast cancer” and says that she was “battling” the disease again.

I don’t know for a fact, but I wonder if Jonathan Bonner thought about giving up football because of his mom’s battle with cancer. Perhaps it felt like there were too many competing priorities, and something had to give.

Whatever the reason, Bonner eventually made the decision to play in 2018, and appeared in 13 games. The Fighting Irish were undefeated and ranked #3 in the nation for the final five games, eventually suffering their only loss to the eventual national champion Clemson Tigers in the Cotton Bowl.

Bonner was not signed in the initial UDFA frenzy immediately after the draft; instead, he was invited to the Redskins tryouts, and was signed as part of the ‘second wave’ of rookie UDFAs in mid-May.

The Redskins currently have 11 defensive linemen in camp. Jay Gruden usually keeps 6 DL on the 53-man roster, though that number dropped to just 5 players at times in the 2018 season.

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff Semifinal-Cotton Bowl-Notre Dame vs Clemson Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

As I mentioned in a recent article, the team seems to have a solid core of 5 defensive linemen that are virtual locks for the roster: Payne, Allen, Ioannidis, Settle, and Brantley.

That leaves 6 players competing for one probable roster spot, and perhaps one more practice squad position. The competition is fairly even.

The Redskins have former first-round pick, Marcus Smith, who was on the 53-man roster last season.

They also have Andrew Ankrah, who was a standout in the AAF spring league earlier this offseason.

The depth chart is rounded out by JoJo Wicker, who spent the 2018 offseason with the Lions, as well as two more 2019 UDFAs, Austin Maloata from Austin-Peay and the Marshall Thundering Herd DE, Ryan Bee in addition to Bonner.

The competition looks fairly evenly matched, with a mix of rookies and young veterans, though Jonathan Bonner’s pedigree as a defensive player on one of the four college teams playing for a national championship a few months ago could give him a leg up. He may not have been a star, but his situation as a 4-year player in an elite college program may be more appealing than the pedigree of players from less inspiring programs like Marshall and Austin-Peay, or former pro-football castoffs.

To figure out what Jonathan Bonner brings to the table in Washington, I have enlisted the help of a film analyst who has volunteered to give his take on the Redskins UDFAs.

James FitzGerald (@GMDfitz7765) is a former college player, high school coach, and an avid college football fan who has spent hours in the film room watching opponents and his own teams. His analytical skill adds depth to these profiles that I can’t supply on my own.

Let’s see what he has to say.


Fitz’s film review

Film Watched: Notre Dame v. Michigan and Wake Forest

Bonner effectively fills gaps and clogs holes at the line of scrimmage. He knows his assignment and preforms what he asked to do, using his length to shake off blocks and fill his gaps.

Bonner is patient, and he does not over pursue the ball carrier. He is more than willing to let the play come to him, as opposed to trying to make a great play happen and leaving a wide open hole at the line of scrimmage.

But there are reasons why this player from a top college program went undrafted.

He loses too much ground against the down block because he doesn’t move his feet to lose as little ground as possible.

Also, he is not a pass rush threat. It just is not part of his game, and NFL teams are expecting interior defensive lineman to participate in the pass rush more and more. He does have a swim move and a rip move, but he often finds himself out of position when he uses them.

Another issue is that Bonner makes the easy move to the backside of the lineman too often. When he does this he is out of the play and the running back runs by him. Coaches will want him to work toward the play and beat the block instead of going around it.

How would he fit with the Redskins?

The Redskins defensive line is already solid. I do not see a spot for Jonathan Bonner on the 53 man roster, and there is little reason — given the Redskins depth at the position — to keep him on the practice squad.

Bonner will have to make a lot of noise in this unit during training camp and the preseason to make the team, and I just don’t see him doing that.

He will be cut after preseason.

Poll

Polls: As UDFAs go, rate Jonathan Bonner

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    A
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    B
    (30 votes)
  • 44%
    C
    (174 votes)
  • 38%
    D
    (149 votes)
  • 8%
    F
    (32 votes)
392 votes total Vote Now

Poll

How good are the chances that Jonathan Bonner is on the Redskins roster in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Pretty strong
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    Above Average
    (5 votes)
  • 7%
    50/50
    (30 votes)
  • 89%
    Unlikely
    (366 votes)
408 votes total Vote Now

A taste of player’s Twitter feed: