We haven’t heard much about Jonathan Allen, the Redskins’ top pick in the draft, during the Redskins’ OTAs and minicamp. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Allen is struggling or behind schedule.
The nature of the offseason program is one reason why it has been difficult for Allen to stand out. The practice in conducted in helmets and shorts and there is no contact allowed. As much as any position, the defensive line is about contact.
“All we can work on right now is the work ethic and how they’re picking up the system, where they’re fitting, where they’re getting their hands on people,” said Gruden. “But as far as shedding and rushing, it’s really hard. It’s hard to go out here and coach team drills and say ‘OK, we’re competing but don’t compete because we’re not live and we can’t hit anybody.’ It’s a fine line. It’s hard to coach that.”
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Like all the rookies, Allen got a late start in the offseason program. By the time he was drafted and participated in rookie camp on May 13, the veterans had been working together learning Greg Manusky’s new defense and the ways of new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula for almost a month. Add in to Allen, of course, being new to pro football and he had a lot to learn.
“It’s been a lot of work, a lot of catching up to do to catch up with the guys,” Allen said early in the OTA schedule. “Really, just doing whatever I can to jump on board and get better, help the team win some ball games, that’s what it’s about.”
Tomsula, who comes in with a reputation as a defensive line guru, said that he is bringing Allen along slowly.
“There’s a big curve here,” he said. “I’m not going to throw him to the wolves, you know. I have a president and a vice president and a head coach and a defensive coordinator who agree with that. Everybody wants to see him walk in, get in that spot, and go. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to let him learn and understand what we’re doing and then go after it.”
It’s a learning curve for all of them because it’s a new defense. But that guy’s coming from college. It’s a different game. It is. Everybody can say what they want but in there at that position it’s a different game.
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The head coach seems to be happy with the No. 17 overall pick.
“High, you know, very high,” he said when asked about his opinion of Allen’s progress. “Coach Tomsula is working him very hard. He’s going to get stronger. He’s going to do a much better job in the weight room getting himself in better shape. He works hard. Very smart football player, can play multiple spots on the line. He’s got physical, strong hands. He can shed blockers with ease. So I have been impressed with him. I think he is going to be a heck of a player for us for a long time.”
The part about the weight room and getting stronger is often overlooked. Certainly, Allen was in a top-notch conditioning program in college at Alabama. But preparing for the combine and pro days and team workouts take away from their strength conditioning. By the time the strength and conditioning staff at Redskins Park got a hold of him and the rest of the rookies, a lot of workout time had passed.
Allen still will be learning and getting stronger when training camp comes around. He could get off to a slow start but there seems to be little doubt that there will be appearing often in opponents’ backfields sooner rather than later.