Jonathan Allen

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Jonathan Allen delivered in his second year, but now it's time to see if he can become truly dominant

Jonathan Allen delivered in his second year, but now it's time to see if he can become truly dominant

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?

For someone who's been developing since his days at Stone Bridge High School and is as mature as they come, the answer is no.

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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Josh Norman compares Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen to 'army tanks'

Josh Norman compares Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen to 'army tanks'

In consecutive weeks, the Redskins held two of the best running backs in the NFL to laughable totals. 

On Sunday, the Redskins limited Ezekiel Elliott to just 33 rushing yards. Zeke's second half was fairly successful compared to the first, where he rushed for only 13 yards. In Week 6, the Redskins limited Christian McCaffrey to just 20 yards rushing. 

Fantasy owners of Elliott and McCaffrey are probably cursing the Washington defense, but for Redskins fans, this is an exciting time. The Burgundy and Gold defense has generated five turnovers in their last two games, both wins, and held the opposition to 17 points in each game. 

Plenty of players are playing well, but much of the defensive success starts up front. And that means Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen. First-round picks out of the University of Alabama in consecutive drafts, the two defensive tackles are starting to really be a force up the middle for Greg Manusky's defense. 

"These guys are more compact, like some army tanks," cornerback Josh Norman said of Payne and Allen.

"I love, love having tackles that can get people up off the ball and move them."

So far, the Redskins run defense looks nothing like the same group from last season. Injuries betrayed the Redskins strong defensive start last year, and the units rankings plumetted. The Redskins finished with the worst run defense in the NFL.

That has flipped upside down, and it showed big-time in the win over Dallas.

"You're talking about an excellent running back, a great running quarterback, a physical quarterback, big offensive line," Washington coach Jay Gruden explained about the Cowboys. "And those
guys kept it going. Not only were they stopping the run but they had to rush the passer there nonstop at the end of the game."

For Allen and Payne, the recognition means little. 

Asked about his big game on Monday, notching his third sack of the season and beating the Cowboys for the first time in his NFL career, Allen replied with a stone face. 

"The way we look at it we only have fun when we’re winning," he said. 

Well, for two weeks in a row Allen could have fun. Even if he doesn't seem to be enjoying it too much.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett certainly didn't seem to enjoy facing Payne or Allen.

"Obviously they did a good job defending our run," Garrett said. "We tried to attack in a lot of different ways and they defended it well."

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Redskins should get Jonathan Allen ready to go on Monday, per source

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins should get Jonathan Allen ready to go on Monday, per source

Jonathan Allen is expected to be ready to go when Redskins team activities resume next week, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

The second-year defensive tackle from Alabama has been a mainstay in the Redskins Park weight room this offseason, the source said, working out with other defensive linemen.

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Allen went down with a Lisfranc injury in Week 5 last year, and he didn’t return the rest of the season. He was eligible to rejoin the roster in late December, but the team kept their promising rookie big man off the field to fully recuperate.

"We want to make sure he's 100 percent," head coach Jay Gruden said last November. "Once we feel like he's in a position where he can play and play effectively, then we'll play him. He's too good a player."

At the same time, Allen explained that the injury was frustrating but he was working hard in his recovery.

"You definitely can learn a lot sitting back and watching them, but as a competitor, you just want to be out there and help your team," Allen said then.

With Allen on the field early in the season, the Redskins defense looked like a formidable unit. Injuries to Allen and others wrecked that vision, and Washington would go on to finish last in the NFL against the run at season’s end.

Much focus points to what player the Redskins will select with the 13th overall selection in the NFL Draft later this month. It’s entirely possible Bruce Allen and the ‘Skins brass again draft a defensive lineman, and it would be a sound practice.

Still, a healthy Allen back on the field could have a more dramatic impact than any player selected at 13

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