While the defensive line of the Washington Football Team was tormenting opposing offenses last season, there was a key member at home recovering from an injury.
The WFT finished second in the NFL in total defense and sixth in 2020 on its way to an NFC East title. And, to think, it did it all without Matt Ioannidis.
The team's fifth-round pick in 2016, Ioannidis suffered a torn biceps in a Week 3 loss against the Cleveland Browns and was lost for the season. He is now, however, on pace to be ready for Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
A good defense might only get better.
Chase Young was the final piece in a front four that has a chance to turn into one of the best in the league. Young and Montez Sweat were a force coming off the edge last season while Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne handled the work inside. Tim Settle even got in on the action off the bench.
So, is there room for Ioannidis? Absolutely.
How To Watch: Washington at Buffalo - Defense Must Improve
Washington goes on the road for the first time this season Sunday against Buffalo
WFT DL, Bills' QB Plagued By Slow Starts
A defense and a quarterback come into Sunday's showdown searching for better beginnings
Can WFT's Pass Rush Get to Bills' QB?
Chase Young and Montez Sweat are currently playing at different levels
"It helps us tremendously," WFT defensive line coach Sam Mills III said in a recent press conference. "It's a stability factor that Matt gives us [and] a big body that's played a lot of snaps inside."
Ioannidis brings even more depth to the defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, he is arguably the strongest defensive lineman on the roster and he showed that during a breakout campaign in 2019.
There were great expectations for Ioannidis last season after making 15 starts the year before. In 2019, Ioannidis finished with a team-leading 8.5 sacks, third-highest among interior defensive linemen in the league. Only the Los Angeles Rams' Aaron Donald and Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones finished with more.
Ioannidis added 64 tackles, 16 quarterback hits, and 11 tackles for loss. His performance went largely unnoticed, as Washington went 3-13. According to Pro Football Focus, Ioannidis finished with the second-highest pass-rush productivity score of 13.2, again behind only All-Pro Donald.
In 2021, Washington is not going to sneak up on anyone. It has a chance to repeat as NFC East champions and break a 17-year stretch where no team has won back-to-back division titles. If this is going to happen, the defense will have to lead the way once again and the return of Ioannidis is a huge boost for the defensive line.