REDSKINS PARK -- Tim Settle discovered the football potential that comes with turning off his mind. With instincts serving as his gridiron guide, the Redskins rookie lineman then revealed he could power up on the field when needed.
It’s common hearing praise for one of Washington's young defensive lineman. Head coach Jay Gruden offered sincere kudos for one after Thursday’s practice. It just wasn't for the usual suspects Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne or Matt Ioannidis.
Settle’s work last week against the Cowboys and overall growth throughout his rookie season warranted acknowledgment.
"You know Settle has been one of our most exciting prospects,” Gruden gushed. He added that among that group, “Settle has come the furthest in my opinion.”
That statement goes beyond coachspeak, considering the talents involved. Allen has five sacks and leads the Redskins with seven tackles for loss. Despite a recent dip, Washington’s run defense improved significantly from last season with the addition of Payne, the Redskins’ 2018 first-round pick. Ioannidis ranks second behind Ryan Kerrigan with 7.5 sacks.
Those three aren't just gobbling up ball carriers and quarterbacks, but snaps. The Redskins have kept a rather tight rotation along the line. Ioannidis’ shin injury on Thanksgiving pushed Settle into the lineup. The Virginia Tech product then began pushing various Cowboys’ lineman standing in his way.
“I was told to be ready when your name is called,” Settle said to NBC Sports Washington Thursday.
Ready he was, thanks to “taking care of my body,” practice reps under the tutelage of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and relentless film work. The fifth-round pick finished with three tackles in the game at Dallas, including one for a loss on a season-high 21 snaps. Pro Football Focus rated Settle as Washington’s top defender in the loss.
“The more you stop thinking about what you have to do on this play, the easier it is,” Settle told NBC Sports Washington. "It's fun when you’re out there with guys who get after it most of the time. The fact that I was able to play next to these guys was big.”
Settle is yet another of Tomsula’s projects. Beyond the standard technique work, Settle credited Tomsula’s focus on the mental side for his development.
“Jim Tom really teaches us to react, not to go in [assuming]. When we rush or come off the ball, don’t (assume we) know what we’re going to do. Just feel it,” Settle said. “It sounds crazy when you say that, but when it becomes the natural routine, you see why he says it because it brings out so much different stuff like power, quickness.”
Settle’s quickness wasn't a concern for his head coach during the summer workouts. Remaining upright was.
“I think he's gotten better, gotten stronger, played at a better pad level,” Gruden said. “He's staying on his feet. When we first got him, he was falling down all the time and leaning on people, but now he's showing some explosion and keeping his balance, which is pretty good."
"I'm excited about him as a prospect for this football team for many, many years and he's going to get more and more reps, especially if Matt is struggling."
Ioannidis did not practice Thursday, meaning more reps could come for Settle in Monday’s NFC East game at Philadelphia. The 310-pounder is ready for the physical challenge.
“Lightest I’ve been in a long time,” said Settle, who previously played 15-20 pounds heavier. “I just feel way healthier, stronger, faster. I’m more fluid, elusive with how I play.”
Based on Settle’s improvement, Gruden didn't hesitate when asked if the three-man line turns into a four-man rotation next season.
"Oh, without a doubt, without a doubt,” Gruden said.
“Tim has matured a lot," said Stacy McGee, the true veteran of the defensive line unit. “He’s accepted his role. More than anything, he’s excepted coaching. He’s grown as a player, as a man. He’s becoming a student of the game. … I’m excited about his future.”
Settle sees a bright one for the Redskins defensive line.
“We all play different. We all have different tools,” Settle said. “The fact that we can all get pressure in different ways based on our playing style, there’s nothing better than that. We’ve got some dogs. A young room, but we’ve got some talent that’s going to shine over the next couple of years.”
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Who to root for?: Redskins week 13 rooting guide
- Power Rankings: Where do the Redskins fall?
- NFC East Update: Cowboys pull ahead with win over Saints