Matt Ioannidis

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Redskins Superlatives: The Most Likely to Succeed Award goes to a pair of pass rushers

Redskins Superlatives: The Most Likely to Succeed Award goes to a pair of pass rushers

This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will be handing out Redskins Superlatives as they continue to preview the 2020 season.

Next up: They give their Most Likely to Succeed awards to a pair of guys on the defensive front.

JP's pick: Matt Ioannidis

The Redskins will roll out a new defense with new coaches and new players this fall, and the guy that won't even blink is the NFL's Greek freak, Matt Ioannidis. At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, Ioannidis has brute strength and a proven ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. 

He's registered 15 sacks over the last two seasons and it would be no surpise if Ioannidis pops this year into double digit sack territory. He has the skill, and with the addition of Chase Young on the outside, teams might have to commit more resources to blocking off the edge. 

What Ioannidis has shown as a pro is that he improves every season, as evidenced by his growth from a fifth-round pick in 2016 to an impressive 2019 campaign that ended with 8.5 sacks and 64 tackles, 11 of them for a loss. Look for that climb to continue in 2020.


Pete's pick: Chase Young

Does it say more about Chase Young's promise or the quality of the Redskins' roster that I'm picking someone who's played the same number of NFL snaps as the kitchen table I'm writing this story on to be the recipient of my Most Likely to Succeed Award?

That topic can be for another time. Right now, let's just focus on Young.

We live in an era where every single prospect is picked apart by someone, and yet, I have yet to come across a scouting report that is even slightly down on Young's chances of becoming a menace. Hell, Bucky Brooks of just wrote that if "Young is as good as advertised, the Washington Redskins are on their way toward becoming a Super Bowl contender." Read that again after picking up the eyeballs that dropped out of your head!

I'm a bit worried how this weird offseason is going to affect the Burgundy and Gold's rookie class — except when it comes to Young. It's damn near impossible to find something that everyone agrees on these days, but everyone agrees that Young will produce immediately as a pro. Why would I be the one idiot to say otherwise?

That's why he's my selection for this award. Can't wait to see him win more meaningful ones in the future.

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Position Group Rankings: Why the defensive linemen make up the best unit on the roster

Position Group Rankings: Why the defensive linemen make up the best unit on the roster

After each ranking the Redskins' position groups on a list that went from worst to best, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will now spend the rest of the week and weekend delving deeper into every spot on the roster.

Next up is the one that finished at the top of their collective rankings: Defensive line.

Currently on the depth chart: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, Caleb Brantley

Who's in charge?: Sam Mills III (15 years of NFL experience, all of which came in Carolina)

Quick overview

From top to bottom, no unit on the Redskins seems more complete than the defensive linemen.

Sure, defensive end maybe has more potential thanks to Chase Young's presence, but when it comes to already having shown NFL ability, the guys inside have the ones on the edge collectively beat.

If the team is going to surprise their many doubters this year, those names listed above have to be the ones leading the way. Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio will be leaning on their D-linemen all season long.


JP's notes

*The Redskins have two stud defensive tackles in Ioannidis and Allen, and yet, the player with the most talent is Payne. He's played 31 NFL games and logged seven sacks, but just turned 23 last month. Payne has incredible strength at the point of attack, particularly in his hands, and in Jack Del Rio's new downhill scheme, Payne could be a true difference maker. Maybe it's unfair to say Payne has more talent than Allen or Ioannidis, but Payne has the highest ceiling of the three, and maybe with Del Rio and Rivera in charge, he will get there. 

*Ioannidis has proven an ability to get to the quarterback and I expect him to play a lot in passing situations for the Redskins' revamped defense. He's got 16 sacks in the last two years; he should be playing a lot in passing situations. 

*Contractually, Allen is at an interesting point. The Redskins picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie deal earlier this offseason, but if Washington wants a long-term deal with Allen, that should get worked on this season. Does Washington want a long-term deal with Allen? Picking up the option was obvious — that will pay Allen more than $10 million in 2021 — but after that, his salary could skyrocket to $15 million per season or more. Allen has 14 sacks since 2018 and has done a strong job of occupying the middle of the defense, but he hasn't made the Pro Bowl. The 2016 first-round pick was expected to make a massive impact for the Redskins. Make no mistake, Allen has been very good, but has he been great? This year should look different. Allen will get more chances to go upfield and attack, and that could suit his alpha personality much more. 

*Don't sleep on Settle. He's been in the NFL for two seasons and won't even turn 23 until July. He left college with plenty of room to convert beef into strength. That process is well underway, and members of the Redskins coaching staff appear very excited about the former Hokie's potential. 



Pete's notes

*As I've watched this offseason and seen the serious approaches taken by the Redskins' new regime, and most notably by Rivera and Del Rio, the player I keep flashing to is Allen. Think about how different the pros are compared to what he came from in college. At Alabama, it was all about football, and nearly all about winning in football. With the Burgundy and Gold, on the other hand, Allen has dealt with tons of losing and even more distractions and off-field drama. I can only imagine how relieved he is to have two leaders who are emphasizing accountability and competition; those are the same values that Allen seems to most care about, too.

*Can someone outside of this area please start paying attention to Ioannidis? He's increased his sack total in each of the last three campaigns and finished 2019 with 8.5. He doesn't play as many snaps as other top linemen like Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox, but when it comes to pass rushing productivity, he's as disruptive as anyone. He's also in the top one percent of the top one percent when it comes to strong humans on this planet.

*Brantley's injury issues have been frustrating. He's played just eight games since joining the Redskins after cutdown day in 2018 and Jim Tomsula really liked his skill set, but no one here has really gotten to see it. Hopefully 2020 is when he can finally get right, because I believe he has something to offer this crew for sure.

*Remember that this is going to be the first year for Allen, Payne and Settle without Tomsula. Mills has plenty of experience and if Rivera trusts him, you should as well, but that trio will have some new teaching points to get used to. Let's see how they adjust and what, if anything, it means for how they fare.

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Don't let the surplus of first-rounders on the Redskins DL let you forget about Matt Ioannidis

Don't let the surplus of first-rounders on the Redskins DL let you forget about Matt Ioannidis

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.


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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