Jonathan Allen Holds Key To Washington's Continued Defensive Improvement

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A product by way of the University of Alabama, Jon Allen initially made his name a mere stone's throw away from Washington’s facility in Ashburn, Virginia. A highly touted recruit out of Stone Bridge High School, Allen’s hometown ties have introduced one of the burgundy and gold’s franchise and community cornerstones since his selection No. 17 overall nearly a handful of seasons ago. 

Following a rookie season in which Allen appeared in just five games—amassing one sack—his 2021 campaign on the interior has slotted him alongside the league’s elite in Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh’s Cam Heyward, and Kansas City’s Chris Jones. 

A front seven expected to dominate as they did in 2020, Washington’s defensive unit, captained by defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, got off to a slow start, to say the least. However, Allen’s move to the interior this fall, a change from his prior seasons spent at defensive end, has seen him reap the rewards adjacent to Daron Payne. 

"He's got an amazing punch and extension on those arms," head coach Ron Rivera said. "You just see the power and you feel the power. That's why, to me, him learning and understanding and getting a feel for what we're doing and attacking and punching and using that power on half a man, you can see him have success.”

With eight TFLs in 11 games, Allen is on pace to shatter his career high (11) set in 2018. A dominating interior presence whose pressure rate ranks among the top handful of defensive tackles, Allen has made it a habit of living in opposing offenses’ backfields, wreaking havoc in both the run and pass games. While his sack numbers are also in line to represent a career-high, his 22 quarterback pressures have paved the way for rotational depth rushers in James Smith-Williams, Casey Toohill, and Shaka Toney to align in head-up matchups with eyes focused on No. 93. 

With Montez Sweat out since fracturing his jaw against Denver and Chase Young on the shelf for the rest of the 2021 season, the onus for Allen to remain the anchor of Washington’s front seven has been the key to Rivera’s unit reeling off three consecutive wins over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, and Seattle Seahawks. While those games saw Allen fail to record a sack, his presence alone—and vocalization as a leader for a youth-infused burgundy and gold defense—has resulted in the entire 53-man roster playing with their hair on fire.

A leader by example, Allen has become the primary voice in Washington’s locker room. Fresh off an offseason extension that will see him don the burgundy and gold until 2025, his production and continued development have placed an unlimited ceiling on his game as a 26-year-old captain. The first selection in what has been a wave of talent assembly-lined from Tuscaloosa to the front door of Washington’s facility—whether via the draft or free agency—Allen has become the lead dog in a room of alphas. 

Under Ron Rivera and Del Rio, Washington’s defense starts and stops with the success of the fifth-year talent in Allen. A blend of power and speed whose motor constantly runs hot, if Washington eyes a second consecutive division title and a ticket to the playoffs for the second consecutive year under Rivera, the pressure will remain heavy on Allen’s broad shoulders to lead the way home. A defense that has been dealt a slew of devastating injuries highlighted with the loss of Young, Rivera’s homegrown talent in Allen holds the key to Washington’s continued defensive improvement as the weeks go on.

Written By:

Ryan Fowler

Staff Writer

Feature Writer for The Draft Network. Former Staff Writer for the Washington Football Team. Multiple years of coverage within the NFL and NBA.

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