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The case for three Commanders defensive players to make the Pro Bowl


The season has not gone as many predicted it would go for the Washington Commanders' defense, but that doesn't mean the unit is lacking in players deserving of more recognition.

Voting has opened for the 2024 Pro Bowl games, and Commanders fans will see several familiar names in the lists of top 10 players at each position. Players like Sam Howell (10th among quarterbacks) and Antonio Gibson (seventh among return specialists) are earning some recognition for their abilities on the field, but there are some members of the Burgundy & Gold on the other side of the ball who have done the same.

Let's take a look at three of them and explain why they deserve to be part of the Pro Bowl Games in Orlando, Florida.


Kamren Curl

Kamren Curl has quietly put together one a career campaign in 2023, recording 97 tackles -- two shy of tying a career high -- with four pass breakups. He's currently tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Antoine Winfield Jr. for the third most stops at his position, and his solo stops (64) are third behind only the Chargers' Derwin James Jr. (65) and the Broncos' Alex Singleton (81).

"He's been very solid for us, doing a lot of the good things that we ask of him and then doing more," said head coach **Ron Rivera.** "I mean, he's a terrific football player, a guy that is a veteran leader now. You see his play, it's very savvy and it's very timely."

Curl has become a lynchpin for the Commanders' defense because of his versatility. Just this season alone, he has spent time in the box as well as free safety and cornerback. What's more, he tends to give receivers a challenge; he's allowed 29 receptions and 274 yards (both career lows) on 43 targets.

But Curl isn't afraid to be physical, either. With the Philadelphia Eagles threatening to score at the 3-yard line in Week 8, he popped the ball from Kenneth Gainwell's grasp and recovered the fumble at the 7-yard line.

Curl is currently fourth among strong safeties in Pro Bowl votes.


Jonathan Allen

It's true that Jonathan Allen’s stats don't pop off the page the way they have in previous years, but there are several factors that have led to that outcome.

For starters, much more attention has been placed on the Commanders' defensive interior with Montez Sweat and Chase Young now playing for different teams. "That's been tough," Rivera said Monday. "They really have had to fight through a lot, be competitive, while enduring several extra blockers."

Despite the extra attention, Allen has managed to flash at various points of the season, particularly as a pass-rusher. Against the New York Giants, for example, he knocked Saquon Barkley back for a three-yard loss on the first play of the afternoon. Later, in the third quarter, he sacked Tommy DeVito for a four-yard loss on third-and-17.

Allen was just as disruptive in the previous game against the Seattle Seahawks. He chased down Geno Smith for a sack at the line of scrimmage on a third-and-4 that forced the Seahawks to punt with the score tied at 9-9.

Allen is eighth among defensive tackles in Pro Bowl votes.


Daron Payne

Like Allen, Daron Payne’s numbers are not as impressive as they were a year ago, when he set a career high with 64 tackles and tied a franchise record for a defensive tackle with 11.5 sacks. Making his first Pro Bowl in 2022, plus getting a contract extension for his efforts, also earned him more attention from opponents.

"That's kind of how things are on the inside for those two guys," said of Allen and Payne. "Now, they've tried to hold up and hold the point and do a great job for us, and they just continue to work hard at it."

Payne has still managed to put together some impressive moments, none more so than singlehandedly forcing a three-and-out against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. He started off by sacking Russell Wilson for a nine-yard loss on the first play of the second quarter and followed it up with by taking down Javonte Williams for a two-yard loss and deflecting a pass on third down.

But Payne has also come away with some critical turnovers that gave Washington chances to win games. In Week 1, for example, he recovered a fumble after Sweat sacked Josh Dobbs that led to the Commanders extending their lead with a field goal. In the first matchup with the Giants, he recovered the ball after a three-yard run by Barkley at the 8-yard line, giving the Commanders one last gasp to try tying the score on the road.

Payne is currently not on the list of top defensive tackles to receive Pro Bowl votes, but there's still time to change that. Vote for him and the rest of Washington's players, HERE.

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