The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
With the Washington Football Team just a few weeks removed from the season finale and a critical offseason on the horizon, it's time to turn the page to the 2022 campaign.
Over the next two weeks, washingtonfootball.com will break down every position group and lay out who the team could potentially add via free agency and the draft. After starting with the running backs, next up are the defensive tackles:
On the roster
Before the season even began, the priority was for Washington to keep its defensive line intact, not just for the short term future, but for years to come. That's why it set up Jonathan Allen with an extension that ensured he would be with the Burgundy & Gold until 2025.
Allen earned every cent of that deal by having a career season.
Name a defensive stat, and there's a good chance Allen led his fellow Washington defensive linemen in it. He paced the position with 62 tackles, 10 of which were for a loss. His nine sacks, which led the team and was tied for third-most among all interior defensive tackles, was a career high. His pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus (90.9) was the third-most for his position behind Aaron Donald and Javon Hargrave.
Even someone like Allen, who often points out that sacks come in waves and are a result of the people around him, has to admit that's pretty good.
"Jon is having an excellent, excellent season," said defensive line coach Sam Mills III in October. "He's one of our captains and he's one of our leaders and Jon's presence in the run game first and foremost has been outstanding. And then his pass rush. I mean, Jon is relentless."
While Washington's pass rush, and defense as a whole for that matter, was not as dominant in 2021 (38 sacks) as it was in 2020 (47 sacks), its run defense was one of its brighter spots. That's because Daron Payne was also having a standout year clogging running lanes. His 61 tackles were a career-high, and his six tackles for a loss were the third-most on the team.
"Big Payne is a big cleanup guy," Mills said. "He likes moving around with his athleticism … So I'm very, very pleased."
The numbers might now show that Payne was as effective against the passing game as he was in 2020, when he had three pass breakups and an interception, but head coach Ron Rivera does feel that Payne took "a big step." There was a time, Rivera said, that Payne was playing more sideways. Now, he's more vertical with his rush, and it became more apparent each week that he was making progress.
"Because of his athleticism, his quickness, you want to see that first initial vertical step to get into those creases and just clog things up on the inside."
Rounding out the position were Matt Ioannidis and Tim Settle. Settle's season (13 tackles) was not as dominant as the five-sack performance he had in 2020, but it should be noted that he had to share time with Ioannidis, who returned from a torn biceps that kept him out for most of the previous season.
"I am very happy with Tim Settle being our fourth because there's not going to be many fours in this league better than Tim Settle," Mills said. "He's outstanding at communicating games and understanding game plans."
Ioannidis was a solid piece for Washington once again. He finished the year with 38 tackles (16 solo) to go with 2.5 sacks. Having Ioannidis back, Mills said, is a comfort for him, because if Allen or Payne need to come out, he has another starting-caliber player to take their place.
Settle is set to be a free agent this offseason, and with plenty of cap space available for Washington, the team has the ability to re-sign him if it chooses to do so. There are other options Washington could pursue as well with the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph and Larry Ogunjobi set to hit the market. You can check out the full list of impending free agent defensive tackles, HERE.
Georgia's Jordan Davis is projected to be the best prospect the position has to offer in this year's draft. However, there are other quality players in this class, such as Texas A&M's DeMarvin Leal and Alabama's Phidarian Mathis. You can see the full list of prospects, HERE.