Jonathan Allen doesn’t exactly wax poetic. The Washington Redskins defensive lineman has developed into one of the team’s leaders and one of the players most willing to voice his opinion, but it’s rarely a sprawling soliloquy like Josh Norman is known to make.
The fact that Allen has become the spokesman for a no-nonsense defensive line group is a perfect fit. The entire line is expected to take another step forward this season with Matt Ioannidis, 25, locked up with a new three-year contract extension, Daron Payne, 21, entering his second year and Allen, 24, continuing to grow. The unit is also deep, with 21-year old Tim Settle and 24-year old Caleb Brantley. That’s a young core that, with the exception of Brantley, is under contract for the next several years.
“[The chemistry] helps a lot,” Allen said Monday, on the first day of organized team activities. “When you have a group of guys who hold you accountable, it really pushes you to be your best every day. The thing we always say is ‘You should never feel comfortable.’ We try to make everything and everybody uncomfortable in this building. That is just our goal every day, to make it uncomfortable as possible for everybody to help promote growth.”
And how do you make your teammates uncomfortable?
“Talk [expletive] and compete,” Allen said in a matter-of-fact tone.
Include outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan (13 sacks last season), Ryan Anderson and first-round pick Montez Sweat, and the defensive front is the strongest unit on the roster. Sweat showed an impressive burst of speed off the edge Monday and Allen said he’s, “big, tall, long, and he works. That’s all that matters.” The loss of Reuben Foster on Monday to a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament was a significant blow to the defense, but the unit still expects to be much-improved in 2019.
The Redskins were one of the better defenses in the league last season before injuries crept in, and it finished ranked 15th in points per game allowed last season. The addition of Pro Bowler Landon Collins is an upgrade at one safety position, though there’s still a question mark at free safety. The return of cornerback Quinton Dunbar from a nerve issue that plagued him last year will also help the team’s secondary, but the defense as a whole will follow the line’s lead.
“For the most part, our whole defensive line, they are all working hard and that is kind of how I determine if you are going to fit in or not,” Allen said. “I like our whole D-line. I really like our whole defense. It’s just about going out there and being consistent. If we can do that, we will be fine.”