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OTA Notebook | Jonathan Allen feels 'reinvigorated' by new coaching staff


The vibes have been high for the last four months surrounding the Washington Commanders' facility, with several players praising the attitude and approach the new coaching staff has brought with them to turn the franchise into a competitor.

Count Jonathan Allen among the throng of people who have voiced their support for the team's new vision.

"I'm just so happy," Allen told reporters after Wednesday's practice. "I love the coaching staff. I love the direction we're moving in. I love the way we're working. It has truly been reinvigorating and just so fun to come to work every day. This is literally just a dream job right now."

Allen, a first-round pick from 2017, has played under three different coaching staffs in his NFL career. While both Jay Gruden and Ron Rivera had their moments of success, the best record the team had since Allen arrived was 8-8-1 in 2022 and one playoff appearance in 2020.

We won't get to fully judge the Commanders' new staff, led by head coach Dan Quinn, until the season starts in September, but all the reviews have been positive so far with players complimenting the energy in the building and the coaching staff's collaborative mindset.

Here's the biggest different Allen has felt over the past few weeks: everyone is focused and working towards a common goal together.

"Everybody has something to prove, and we're all pushing towards the same direction," Allen said. "I think that's gonna be so great for us. Everybody has...the same motivation. We're all chasing the same goal, and we're all pushing each other to get there."

The Commanders have been one of the busiest teams in the NFL as they have attempted to restructure a roster that was 4-13 a year ago. Aside from hiring a new general manager and coaching staff, they've signed more than two dozen free agents, added some new names to the front office and drafted nine players.

Could that be enough to change the Commanders' fortunes in 2024? Possibly, but Allen isn't making any grand proclamations about the team's potential. In trademark fashion for the two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Allen said the team still has a lot to prove as a team that hasn't had a winning season in eight years.

With that said, Allen has been smiling a lot since he first met with Quinn.

"I just loved the energy that he brought," Allen said. "I just loved the vision that he had for this team, and I was excited to just get to work."

Let's get into some more observations from practice:

-- The Commanders started the day with special teams work, particularly with kickoff return. It was the first time media members got to see what the rule change would look like. It's certainly different with players having just five yards of separation and being unable to engage until the ball is caught, but if you can get past that, you can see the advantages that it can give to the offense, depending on who is catching the kicks. The Commanders had several players fill the role, from Emmanuel Forbes Jr. to Brian Robinson Jr., and several had positive returns.

"We're trying to find out what unique things a player has and how to feature them," Quinn said. "One player may be able to, another player may not. And so, it does take a little bit of exploring, but that's our job as coaches to find any unique traits that the players have."

-- Both Marcus Mariota and Jayden Daniels delivered some daggers during seven-on-seven drills. Mariota was the first to torch the defense, throwing a shot to Terry McLaurin as he ran free down the sideline after beating the cornerback on the play. Daniels was up next, dropping a dime to Jahan Dotson over the corner covering him.

-- Veteran Zach Ertz still has hops. After Daniels' pass to Dotson, he targeted the tight end near the middle of the field. The ball was a little high, but Ertz leapt in the air and fully extended himself to secure the pass.

-- There were some positive moments from linebacker Jordan Magee, who broke up two passes in three plays. The rookie still has much to learn but plays like that show that he is making progress.

-- Dyami Brown made an impressive touchdown grab in the corner of the end zone over Forbes during red zone drills. Although Brown had to double clutch the pass from Mariota, he still managed to get both feet in bounds to make the play.

-- There were a couple more highlights from Washington's defensive backs near the end of practice. Kyu Blu Kelly nearly had an interception but couldn't keep both feet in bounds. Linebacker Anthony Pittman, however, did manage to grab a turnover off a tipped pass.

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