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SI ranks Redskins Defensive Line best in the NFC East; Jonathan Allen wants to prove it on the field

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“Who is going to block those guys?”

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Sports Illustrated

John McMullen, who writes the EagleMaven column for SI, published a column this week in which he ranked the defensive lines of the four NFC East teams.

Interestingly, he did not go with his “home team” Eagles as the best in the division, instead tapping the Washington Redskins as the top unit.

The guard might be changing in the division, however, with the Eagles aging a bit, Dallas experiencing some significant turnover, and the Giants taking a back seat due to scheme.

Washington, meanwhile, understands it’s an election year and might have found the final piece to a very talented puzzle.

No. 1 Washington Redskins - “Who is going to block those guys?” a former AFC scout rhetorically asked SI.com.

Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick, is the fifth first-round pick new coach Ron Rivera and DC Jack Del Rio will have at their disposal.

Young, almost universally regarded as the best pure football player in the 2020 draft, joins Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside while Jonathan Allen and run-stuffing nose tackle Da’Ron Payne on the interior. That doesn’t even factor in former Temple star Matt Ioannidis, who led the Redskins with 8.5 sacks last season.

“Young is more complete coming in than Nick Bosa last year and you saw what he did for the 49ers,” the former AFC personnel executive said. “You have to factor in Rivera and Del Rio as well, Those guys will get the most of that group.

“It could be special.”

In the balance of the article, he ranked the Eagles #2, the Cowboys 3rd and the Giants 4th.

Redskins fans haven’t had much to cheer about lately, but with a new defensive-minded head coach, a respected veteran coach as the defensive coordinator in Jack Del Rio, and a front four that features Matt Ioannidis and five first-round picks (Kerrigan, Allen, Payne, Sweat, Young) and a second-rounder (Anderson), the Redskins defense has the foundation in the trenches that should anchor one side of the ball for years to come.

Jonathan Allen

The fourth year defensive lineman who was picked 17th overall in the 2017 draft made himself available to the media via Zoom as he was driving to the golf course on Wednesday. It was perhaps typical of Allen to speak to the media while driving. His demeanor was pretty casual, and he had a number of interesting things to say.

Asked about the defensive unit, which looks so good “on paper”, Allen gave an answer consistent with those he has been giving for three years:

I think our ceiling has always been as high as we want it to be, you know. I really don’t get too caught up on what we can do I just get caught up on what we have done. We just have a lot to prove.

So I’m just keeping our heads down and we’re just working, we’ll see what happens come season time. But there’s a long way to go until the game. We still have to meet for the first time and actually do field work together and go through training camp which will probably be a new experience that none of us have ever been through. There’s a lot of steps we have to take before we get to dominating on the field and you’ve just got to focus on what you can do right now.

Asked about scheme changes, Allen continued the train of thought:

I don’t think it was really the scheme that messed us up last year, I think it was just individually, and as a collective group as a defense, we just weren’t consistent. I mean we would have games like the [San Francisco] 49ers, and the [New England] Patriots for a part of it where we would play really well. Then we’d have games like, I don’t know, the [Philadelphia] Eagles and the [Dallas] Cowboys where we’d come out and give up 30 points defensively so I really don’t think it was anything huge that was making us, that contributed to our struggle in the last year. I think it was just being consistent and just not doing the little things in a day-in and day-out basis, that contributed to us losing.

Jonathan Allen has always, in my opinion, come across as a real “meat & potatoes” kind of player and leader. He seems to believe in a no excuses, prove it on the field mentality, and stays focused on the basics of each player doing his job right, and everyone on the field working together.

Asked about the challenges of COVID-19, Allen again seemed to go back to his “no excuses” mentality:

I’m a firm believer of if you want to have a good season you’ve got to have a good offseason. I’m doing everything I can to eat right, sleep better this offseason, just do everything I can to make sure I’m in the best possible shape. And really just try to use quarantine as an opportunity for me to get ahead of the game and get ahead of my competition a little bit with how hard I’m training.

Allen talked about a lot of things — it was a pretty extensive interview — but one last thing I’d like to mention here is that he was asked about specific coaches: Ron Rivera, Jack Del Rio, and defensive line coach Sam Mills III. Again, his answers were very much in character.


CLICK HERE to watch the entire Zoom media session with Jonathan Allen


About Ron Rivera

I met [Ron Rivera] as soon as we signed him. I was at his press conference. I met him one time before that and me and my wife took him and his wife to dinner.

My first impressions? I love him. I love everything I’m hearing from him, I’m loving everything I’m hearing from other players and other former teammates. He seems like the type of guy that we need in Washington to help get this culture change and turn things around for the better.

It was easy to get behind and believe in everything he was preaching and everything he was saying about what he wanted to do as a coach and as the leader of the Washington Redskins.

About Jack Del Rio

I actually played with Jack Del Rio’s son in college, so I know a little bit about him before he even came back. But everything I’ve heard, I mean his track record speaks for itself, it’s been nothing short of fantastic. We’ve had a decent amount of interaction with him. He hops into our Zoom meetings honestly, more often than not. He’s just there just talking ball, talking football, and just trying to make sure we’re getting on the same page because we want to be able to hit the ground running come training camp.

About Sam Mills III

I like Sam Mills a lot.

I look at Sam Mills as having an opportunity to learn new techniques and new schemes that will help me develop my play even that much better. So I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I can’t wait to get on the field and actually start working hands on with him because as a defensive line.

It’s hard to really get a lot of technique through a Zoom call, you know what I mean. So I’m looking forward to the opportunity, trying to take everything I can, and just trying to improve myself as a player.

I’ve always liked Jonathan Allen’s attitude. Whenever I hear him speak, he asks for nothing and offers everything.

No one asked him what he thought of the fact that SI ranked his position group best in the division, but I can imagine his response if anyone did; I think he would scoff at any kind of pre-season projection or ranking and say that the only thing that matters is what happens on the field.

Allen is a no-nonsense guy; a defensive leader from a no-nonsense Alabama program who seems quietly pleased to have a no-nonsense coaching staff taking charge of things. There’s a lot to like in that mindset.