Jonathan Allen's first year with the Redskins was short but tantalizing. His second season, meanwhile, was complete and very productive.
Now the question for Allen is this: Can Washington's best defensive lineman elevate himself to one of the best in the NFL?
Looking ahead to 2019, the Redskins have issues, questions and room to grow at quarterback, safety, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and, well, lots of other spots, too.
Up front on defense, though, the situation looks promising. Allen, along with Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle, are all still on the very early side of their careers.
Together, they contributed to the 'Skins finishing seventh in the league in sacks in 2018 and 17th in rushing defense. That second ranking is disappointing considering the start to the campaign, but it was still a massive improvement on 2017's last place finish.
All in all, what that group showed was largely encouraging.
Allen himself was a stalwart, playing in every game, racking up eight sacks and finishing fifth on the Burgundy and Gold in total tackles. That's a strong stat line for a 24-year-old still getting acclimated to the pros.
But he'd do the Redskins a big favor if he could make it even stronger in his third season.
As of now, it doesn't look like Jay Gruden's team is going to become a high-octane, high-scoring collection like the Rams or Chiefs. What they're doing at QB, and who that QB is going to eventually throw to, is too uncertain to expect a big turnaround in one offseason.
That means they may have to try and follow a similar formula to last year, where they controlled the running game on both sides of the ball, won time of possession and won six of their first nine matchups. That's where another leap from Allen would be really useful.
Expecting him to put up Aaron Donald-like numbers is too much to ask for, because only Aaron Donald can do that. Is it unreasonable to want him to approach someone like Fletcher Cox or DeForest Buckner, however?
That means he has to be more of a force in the backfield, generating more pressure on passers and wrecking more run plays. He's shown he can be that at times; now, he needs to be that all the time.
Right now, the Redskins know they have a very good football player in Allen. With that being said, they'd surely love to be able to say soon that they have a special one.
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