The Redskins selected a pair of Alabama defensive players in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, confident Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson will bring immediate contributions.
A dominate defense for one of college football's shining programs, the University of Alabama churns out NFL-ready talent on a yearly basis. Since the 2013 NFL Draft, 40 Crimson Tide players have been selected. And of those 40, 13 defensive players have been selected within the first two rounds.
While Washington hadn't picked an Alabama defensive player in any NFL Draft dating back to 1990, the Redskins selected defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and linebacker Ryan Anderson in the first two rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Together, the pair was dominant during the 2016 season as they combined for 19.5 of Alabama's 54 sacks – most in the country.
But one of the concerns with selecting Alabama defensive players in recent seasons is determining individual talent on a defense loaded with talent. While some like Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley have quickly excelled, others have struggled to replicate collegiate success in the professional ranks.
In the case of Allen and Anderson, though, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden looked at their production and really didn't see any issues with phoning both to inform them they had been drafted.
"We try to look at the way they get off, the way they finish plays, the way they run down plays," Gruden said. "And I just know that every time you watch an Alabama game, you're going to see No. 22 [Anderson]. He's going to make a play. He's all over the place. He may not have the same measurables as some of these outside linebackers or defensive ends that you're looking for, but he's not a measurable guy. He's a football player, and I know that's a cliché so to speak, but I don't think anybody can argue that's ever played with him or that's ever coached him that will say anything different about him. He just is productive, strong, strong-minded, mentally tough, and a great addition to the Washington Redskins."
Often, it is brought up with the quarterback position that a player ran a pro-style offense, viewed as a benefit in getting a step ahead on preparing for the NFL. While there isn't necessarily a defensive equivalent to that, playing on Alabama's defense is as close as it gets to being in a professional system.
"Anytime you watch college football, and you watch other defenses, no disrespect, and then you flip on an Alabama game, it's different," Gruden said. "The speed is different. They are well-coached, they are in their gaps, they play hard, they play physical, and that's from Week 1 until the end. That has to appeal to you as a coach. They are using their hands, they are physical, they are chasing the ball, they are running to the ball. Of course they have a lot of guys that can sub in and out, but they are just well-coached and we feel good about where they are from a mental standpoint from talking to them, getting to know these guys.
"We know they are both highly intelligent guys. They understand football, understand X's and O's and they both play very hard with a high motor and they are well-coached. So I don't see any negative whatsoever with them going to Alabama – only positive."
Specifically for Allen and Anderson now that they're in Washington, they're hoping their "great relationship" will translate over to the Redskins once they're integrated into Greg Manusky's defensive scheme.
"We got to the point where we can work together, we can go out there and we call a lot of games and stuff on our own – that came with trust and time," Anderson said. "For us to be on the same team, we can just pick right back up where we left off. I know him and I know his skill set. I know when he's hot, I'm going to cover him, and if I'm rushing good, he can cover me. We pretty much have got that understanding. Like I said, man, it's a great feeling to have another dog, somebody that's going to go out there and lay it out there with you every day. That's good, too."
"We definitely have a great brotherhood at Alabama," Allen added. "You never think about a situation where you go to play for a team with one of your great friends from college. It's a blessing, I'm excited."