Jay Gruden can’t wait to get Jonathan Allen out on the field.
“He’s the 17th pick in the draft,” said Gruden a couple of hours after making the Alabama defensive lineman a Redskin. “He will contribute—tomorrow. Right now.”
In his enthusiasm, Gruden may have been jumping the gun a bit. Rookie minicamp doesn’t start until a week from Friday, on May 12, and that is the first time that Allen can take the field with a helmet on at Redskins Park. But once he puts his cleats on he will be utilized early and often.
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Prior to Thursday, the Redskins’ starting defensive ends were Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, both signed as free agents last March. Their contracts have average annual values of a combined $10.25 million.
Perhaps if they had a crystal ball that could have told them they would be able to draft Allen in late April, they would not have signed both of those free agent linemen. Then again, they had lost Chris Baker as a free agent, Ricky Jean Francois was released, and Kedric Golston and Cullen Jenkins were not re-signed. That left multiple holes in the defensive line and adding multiple quality players to the depth chart is not a bad way to go, especially considering that the unit had largely been neglected in the draft until last Thursday.
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Will Allen start Week 1? That remains to be seen. If it was me, I would put McGee in at nose tackle and start Allen and McClain at the ends. McGee played nose tackle in Oakland but Gruden said that “he’s more of an end.” At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, McGee would not be ideal at nose tackle but unless Phil Taylor, who hasn’t played a snap since 2014, can revive his career he may be the best option.
It’s possible that McClain and McGee will start at end Week 1 and Allen will come off the bench but on the defensive line it really doesn’t matter. At that position players rotate in and out throughout the game according to the situation and to keep them fresh. Last year Francois started just six games but he still played 40 percent of the snaps, the third most on the team. Regardless of who starts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see McClain and McGee start most of the games and have Allen play more snaps than both of them.