This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will be handing out Redskins Superlatives as they continue to preview the 2020 season.
First up: They give their Most Likely to Break Out award to two defensive players.
Pete's pick: Daron Payne
Daron Payne has played two seasons in the NFL, and he's still younger than guys like Montez Sweat, Terry McLaurin, Wes Martin and Jimmy Moreland. The dude turned 23 a month ago. That's a major reason why he's my selection for this superlative.
Another reason? The way Ron Rivera is talking about him.
When discussing Washington's interior rushers last week, Rivera did the thing nearly every coach likes to do and mentioned everyone — Payne, Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioanndis and Tim Settle — by name.
Yet the way he discussed Payne in particular made it sound like he expects the third-year lineman to really take off starting in Week 1. It was a subtle remark, yes, but it certainly came off as an indication that Rivera sees something special inside of Payne.
With so many talented pieces up front, it's easy to forget about No. 94, especially after a somewhat quiet follow-up to his rookie performance (he notched just two sacks after tallying five in his debut campaign and also saw his tackles for loss and QB hits drop). Payne himself is literally quiet, too, which may cause him to be a bit overlooked.
No one will be overlooking him in a few months, though. Like every other defender, he's going to benefit from the Redskins' scheme change and he's going to put together what he learned in 2018 and 2019 to have a very productive 2020.
Right now, it feels like fans largely view Payne as someone who's "good" and "solid." Those same fans should start preparing more complimentary adjectives now, so they'll be ready to use them when the time comes.
JP's pick: Cole Holcomb
To begin, it's good to know Pete reads my content.
I think Daron Payne has the highest ceiling of any Redskins defensive tackle, and I think he gets there this year https://t.co/UUEDHKTUdA— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) June 14, 2020
As for Holcomb, he was a fifth-round rookie on an awful team that fired its coach after Week 5 and fired its team president after Week 17. Still, Holcomb, the North Carolina linebacker that didn't even get invited to the NFL Combine, made 105 tackles. He finished inside the Top 40 of NFL linebackers for tackles, and he gained steam as the weather got cold.
New Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said that Holcomb showed "real speed and linebacking ability" during his rookie season and it's easy to project the second-year player as the starting weak side linebacker in Washington's new 4-3 scheme. Also, have we mentioned Chase Young? The second overall pick out of Ohio State should make the entire Redskins defense better, as well as the additions of Rivera and Del Rio.
Holcomb already had a good rookie year in 2019 despite being under the radar as a late round pick. By the time 2020 ends, Holcomb won't be under the radar anymore.
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