The Washington Football Team features a defensive line made up of four first-round selections. The first came during the 2017 NFL Draft when Washington selected Alabama defensive tackle, Jonathan Allen, with the 17th pick.
Entering his fifth year with the team, Allen is feeling the excitement surrounding the team.
"We have a good opportunity in front of us," Allen said on 'Washington Football Today with Julie Donaldson. "We play some exciting opponents this year. There's a lot to be excited for as a Washington Football fan and player."
The WFT finished 7-9 a season ago, which was good enough to win the NFC East. They hosted a playoff game and were knocked out by the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first year of Ron Rivera was a success which makes fans think that year two could be even better.
Washington will have to handle some difficult opponents in the fall.
A 17th game was added for each team this season. Washington landed a road matchup against the Buffalo Bills that will take place in Week 3. This is one of many elite opponents on the schedule this year. In Week 5, Washington will begin a stretch that could make or break the year.
Week 5: vs. New Orleans Saints
Week 6: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Week 7: at Green Bay Packers
Week 8: at Denver Broncos
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Week 9: BYE
Week 10: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This is the reward for winning the division. Washington's schedule features six playoff teams from 2020 with the last five games of the regular season coming against NFC East foes.
Washington will have to win some games that they might not be expected to and for this to happen, the defense will have to be as good as advertised .
The impact of the defense in Washington
Beginning with Allen in 2017, the WFT drafted a defensive lineman in the first round of the draft four years in a row. Daron Payne was added in 2018 followed by Montez Sweat in 2019. The defensive line was solidified when Washington landed the second-overall pick in 2020 and this allowed them to draft Chase Young, who would go onto win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Washington's defense broke out last season. It finished second in total yards allowed (304.6), second in passing yards allowed (191.8), fourth in points allowed per game (20.6), and sixth in sacks (47).
The WFT put up strong numbers in the defensive side of the ball in hindsight but they did not put together a consistent season.
"First year in the new scheme, there's definitely going to be some communication issues," Allen said. "Everyone's definitely not going to be on the same page. … It took almost halfway through the season before we really started to find our stride. So hopefully we can come out and we can find that faster this offseason and this year and do some great things."
Washington got off to a 2-7 start last season and the defense allowed 30 or more points five times during that stretch. It ended the season winning five of seven and did not allow over 20 points in any game.
In year two of a new system with some new pieces, Washington has a chance to keep improving.
The WFT drafted Jamin Davis with their first pick in this year's draft while signing William Jackson III in free agency. Matt Ioannidis suffered a torn biceps during a Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2020 and was forced to miss the rest of the season. He will bring some more strength and depth to an already-loaded defensive line.
"There's always pressure, no matter what year it is, no matter how you did the year before," Allen said. "You could be on a 3-13 team, and you know you're not going to the playoffs. There's a tremendous amount of pressure on each player, regardless of the situation."
Coming off a division title, the WFT will have some pressure coming into the season, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Fans should enjoy the offseason because of three things - energy, excitement, and expectations.