When the Redskins selected Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young with the second overall pick in late April's draft, the Burgundy and Gold added arguably the best player in the 2020 class to what was already the team's strongest position group.
Young's selection is the fourth defensive lineman the Redskins have drafted in the first round over the past four seasons, joining Jonathan Allen (2017), Daron Payne (2018), and Montez Sweat (2019). Pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan -- Washington's first-round selection in 2011 -- remains part of the Redskins plan in 2020.
Having a surplus amount of first-round talent in one position group is nice, but it doesn't always translate to on-field success. In fact, the Redskins defensive line unit as a whole failed to live up to preseason expectations a season ago. Despite the struggles on defense in 2019, one defensive lineman had a Pro Bowl-caliber season. Spoiler, it wasn't any of the previous first-round picks.
Matt Ioannidis, the Redskins fifth-round draft choice in 2016, was by far the most impactful player along the defensive front a season ago. His 8.5 sacks were both a team- and career-high, and his 16 quarterback hits led the team, too. Only Allen (68) had more total tackles along the defensive line, and it barely edged out Ioannidis' total (64).
In addition to leading the team in sacks, the 26-year-old also was impactful stopping the run. His 64 total tackles didn't just break his career-high in that department, it shattered it. His previous career-best was 32 in 2018, which at the time was his best season to date.
Ioannidis joined the Redskins in 2016, and at first, was an afterthought in the team's future plans. He was waived during final roster cuts as a rookie, only to be added to the practice squad a day later. He was promoted to the active roster later that September and appeared in 10 games but played just 102 total snaps on defense.
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But the Temple product continued to work and get better. In 2017, he started 10 games for the club, as the then-rookie Allen missed most of the season due to a foot injury. A year later, even with Allen and the addition of Payne along the defensive line, Ioannidis held his own. He finished with 7.5 sacks on the season, ending the year just half a sack behind Allen (8.0) despite playing 340 less defensive snaps.
The Redskins rewarded Ioannidis with a three-year, $21.5 million extension last spring, a deal that almost could be considered a bargain right now. His efforts a season ago earned him Pro Bowl alternate honors, and although he didn't end up making it to the NFL all-star game, several players around the league understand his importance to the Redskins defense.
Every draft since Ioannidis has been with the organization, the team has used a first-round pick on someone who plays his position. And every year, Ioannidis has continued to get better.
Under new defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, the Redskins are moving from a 3-4 base defense to a 4-3. With Young and Sweat projected to be on the outside with Allen and Payne along the interior, don't be surprised if Ioannidis begins the year technically not as a starter.
In the modern NFL, base defense is usually played less than half the time. Ioannidis will see plenty of snaps, and if his past few years are any indication, he will continue to improve. The 26-year-old's career is a current example of the fact that it doesn't matter when you get drafted; it matters what you do once you are drafted.
While the first-round picks on the defensive line may garner all the headlines, Ioannidis has proved over the past few years that he's just as valuable to the group is just as any of them.
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