Alabama Line: Payne joins Allen to help Redskins stop run
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — The Washington Redskins have paired two Alabama defensive linemen in an effort to upgrade their run defense, drafting Daron Payne to join Jonathan Allen in consecutive year first-round picks.
Allen showed star potential until a foot injury cut his rookie season short in the fifth game. Four picks ahead of where they got Allen, the Redskins thought it best to roll with another Crimson Tide big man by taking Payne.
“The more Alabama guys, the better,” Allen said during Redskins organized team activities on Wednesday. “I was super excited about. I knew what kind of guy we were getting. I knew he was going to fit in and help us reach our goals.”
The Redskins know they must improve their run defense. They finished worst in the NFL last season at 134.1 yards allowed a game — hurt by injuries to Allen and others.
Considering how the group performed when Allen was on the field, allowing just 88 rushing yards a game, Washington could be in store for a massive upgrade.
″(Jonathan) was a key component in the run game and the pass game,” linebacker Preston Smith said. “He helped collapse the pocket. He helped stop the run. He’s a multi-talented guy.”
He is also a healthy guy. Allen, who had 22.5 sacks during his final two seasons at Alabama, deemed himself “100 percent” and pain-free following Wednesday’s session.
“I think he did a great job of rehabbing in the offseason,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said of Allen, who had a Lisfranc injury to his left foot. “We were kind of a little bit hesitant early on when he was here just taking reps and stuff, but looks like he’s just keeps on progressing from where he kind of left off last year. The sky’s the limit for him.”
Allen’s presence helped a defensive front that otherwise lacked playmakers. The hope is Payne makes two.
Though not in Allen’s class as a pass rusher, Payne’s ferocious work helped spark Alabama’s win for the national title against Georgia. Early reviews suggest that version of Payne is causing havoc on the Redskins practice field.
“I’ve seen Payne these few days of practice being really disruptive in the run game and he can pass rush,” Smith said. “He’s a really athletic big guy. I don’t know if a lot of people slept on him, but we’re thankful for him, that he was there when we got the chance to draft him. We’re glad to get him.”
Now Payne lines up yet again next to his fellow disruptor and friend. Two other former Alabama teammates — outside linebacker Ryan Anderson and rookie inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton — also may contribute along the front seven.
Allen sees the defensive line making major moves and genuinely believed the pieces existed for success last season.
Now there’s a second Alabama defensive lineman at the point of attack to add to promising holdovers Matt Ioannidis and Anthony Lanier, who are entering their third seasons.
“I really think we’re going to be a dominant defense,” Allen said. “If we can stay healthy and do what I know we can, there’s nothing stopping us.”