Commanders Rookie Defensive Tackle Details What to Expect From Him as a Player

The Illinois product is going to be able to provide an immediate impact for Washington.
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois defensive lineman Johnny Newton (DL20) speaks at a
Feb 28, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Illinois defensive lineman Johnny Newton (DL20) speaks at a / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Commanders tried to trade back into the first round to secure another high-level talent after drafting high-potential quarterback Jayden Daniels with pick No. 2 in the 2024 NFL Draft. Trying to build an elite squad around the Heisman-winning quarterback from LSU is a focus for the Commanders now.

While general manager Adam Peters was unable to get the Commanders back into the first round, he secured an incredible talent at pick No. 36. Jer'Zhan "Johnny" Newton was one of three second-round picks for Washington.

READ MORE: Commanders NFL Draft Class 'A Mixed Bag of Value'

Drafting a defensive tackle was questionable considering two of the Commanders' best defenders are Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne playing in the interior. There's a reason Washington opted to draft the 6-foot-2, 304-pound defensive tackle.

Newton was given the opportunity to explain to Commanders and NFL fans what he's going to be able to provide the team.

“I feel like I'm dominant," Newton said after being drafted by the Commanders. "My football IQ is really high compared to other defensive linemen. I have a great pre-snap recognition. I know which plays coming at which down and distance, which formation brings which play. So, I just feel like my knowledge on the game is very high compared to other people.”

Given his IQ and knowledge as a football player, Newton is going to be able to provide a huge impact for the Commanders. Even if he plays limited snaps for Washington, the combination of knowledge and anticipation paired with his size and talent will allow him to consistently pressure and terrorize quarterbacks. Where does the knowledge come from, though?

“Just me wanting to have an extra step ahead of people in the game. [Illinois Head] Coach [Bret] Bielema, [Illinois Co-Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line] Coach [Terrance] Jamison, [Purdue Head Coach Ryan] Walters, he's at Purdue now, and then [Illinois Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Aaron] Henry," Newton said.

Playing behind Allen and Payne, Newton is going to have to impress when he gets his snaps. Given his understanding of the game, though, he's going to be able to provide a big impact without needing to take time to get "comfortable" within the game. The second he lines up on the interior, he's going to be able to make life difficult for opposing offensive lines and the quarterback in the backfield.

Newton had 18 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss during his four-year career at Illinois, with 7.5 sacks coming during his final season with the program. He also finished his college football career with 187 total tackles. He's a playmaker through and through, and he understands how important his football IQ was to him continually making big plays.

“It helped me out a lot. I'd probably say like four to five times a game when I could just recognize a difference in an offensive lineman's stance. And it'll help me out with knowing which play is coming right now. So again, adjusting my stance or just playing mind games with offensive lineman," Newton continued.

During the 2024 NFL season, Newton is going to make teams regret not drafting him, and the Commanders will end up having gotten a steal of a draft pick at pick No. 36. While the Commanders couldn't trade into the first round, they get a first-round talent in the early stages of the second round.

READ MORE: Washington Commanders QB Jayden Daniels in 'A Great Spot for Him' Says ASU Teammate

Stick with CommanderGameday for more coverage of the Washington Commanders throughout the 2024 season. Follow Kade on Twitter.

Kade Kimble


Kade has been covering a wide variety of teams ranging from the NFL to the NBA and college athletics since joining Sports Illustrated's FanNation in 2022.