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Experimenting With Different Looks to Washington’s Front Seven

Defensive depth could allow coordinator Jack Del Rio to get creative

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

We have been talking a lot lately about the depth this Washington Football Team now has. That depth is very much evident along the defensive line, where our base 4-3 look utilizes two defensive tackles (and 1-off and 3 technique), but has four starting-caliber players in the rotation - Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle.

We had very solid depth last year at defensive end, with starters Montez Sweat and Chase Young, being backed up by Ryan Kerrigan and Ryan Anderson (before injuries slowed him down). This year, the depth at defense end is not quite the same.

There are many question marks, rookies and unproven players behind the two starters - including Casey Toohill, James Smith-Williams, Williams Bradley-King and Shaka Toney (who may also see time as a SAM linebacker).

There is still a chance Washington will add a veteran EDGE before the start of training camp, or possibly after final roster cuts are made, but I wanted to give you another alternative that may be right up defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s alley.

Jonathan Allen...

Allen is a versatile, athletic defensive lineman, checking in at 6’3” and a lean 300 pounds. He is as strong and stout as they come, but he’s best at a 3-technique, where he can used his quick first step, strong hands and an arsenal of moves to disrupt plays in the backfield.

It would be an option, in some looks - especially when Young or Sweat needed a break, to kick Allen outside to a 5 or 7-technique on the left side of our defensive formation, and flank him with a walked-up SAM. This is that 4-3 Under alignment you’ve heard me talk about a lot recently, where a player like Shaka Toney could be that SAM.

In the defensive look above, we could see the following players:

1 tech - Payne

3-tech - Ioannidis/Settle

5-tech - Allen

EDGE - Young/Sweat

MIKE - Holcomb

WILL - Davis

SAM - Toney

This would be a filthy run defense, and would also generate a ton of pressure against the pass. And, as mentioned at the beginning of this article, would allow Young or Sweat to catch a blow, and really not sacrifice much in terms of defensive integrity against either the run or pass.

For those that may think this looks a lot like the old 3-4 base we used to’s really not. The gap responsibilities are completely different, the alignments shift, the interior defenders all one-gap, the right EDGE is a hand-in-the-dirt players and the responsibility of the SAM is not like that of a pure 3-4 OLB.

Just some food for thought, as we experiment with all this depth...