As part of our Redskins 2020 Offseason Update presented by Bud Light Seltzer, we're focusing on defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis in our Player Spotlight feature brought to you by our friends at Acronis.
It's been a year of new beginnings for Matt Ioannidis. He's a married man now, and he and his wife are expecting a baby in December.
On top of that, he has two new coaches in Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio who he can't wait to work with next season. The duo is bringing a new defensive scheme -- one that allows Ioannidis to play more between the tackles and be a part of a fearsome defensive front.
After the past four seasons ending without playoff appearances, a new era that allows him an opportunity to lead might be exactly what Ioannidis and the Redskins need.
"I feel like we've got a lot of good pieces up front," Ioannidis said. "I think this will be a good opportunity for everyone to showcase their abilities."
Most of the attention has been focused on the Redskins five first-round picks on the defensive line, but Ioannidis has developed into a solid player in his own right. He has improved in every season since he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and he had his best campaign in 2019 with 64 tackles and a team-high 8.5 sacks.
Ioannidis said he isn't quite sure what was different about last season, but whatever he did clearly worked. His sack total ranked fourth among defensive linemen behind only Chris Jones, Cameron Heyward and Aaron Donald.
Ioannidis is not one to focus much on the past, though. For the past month, he has been trying to learn the new defense in a completely new fashion. As someone who has a reputation for being like a coach on the field, the virtual offseason program was a challenge for him. These are strange times, he said, when the team has to install an entirely new defense over Zoom.
That being said, he has to "tip his hat" to the new coaching staff, which he said has "put together a good program and a good playbook. They've delivered it to us efficiently and effectively. I think it went well."
Rivera and Del Rio have said throughout the offseason that they expect the defensive line to be a focal point for the defense. They want the position group to be fast, aggressive and play the run on the way to the quarterback. After learning through the virtual meetings how they plan to achieve that and seeing the additions they have made, Ioannidis is "really excited" about the group's future.
"We've got a little bit of a bad taste in our mouths from last season...but we're looking forward to a fresh start, new beginnings and really getting after it this year."
All the enthusiasm for the group's potential has made Ioannidis anxious to get back to the field. Seeing his teammates in Zoom meetings is nice, but he misses seeing them in person and training with them.
"I can't wait," he said. "We laugh, we joke, we work hard. I'm looking forward, most of all, to get back with the D-Line."
Outside of Ryan Kerrigan, Ioannidis is one of the most experienced defensive linemen on the team, and he has seen his role as a player and leader change over the course of his four seasons in the NFL. He believes leadership consists of a combination of things, ranging from what is required of you, what you want and what the situation calls for.
Now that he is entering his fifth season, Ioannidis plans to be someone who leads by example for the rest of his young peers.
"I appreciate that role," he said. "Obviously [Jonathan Allen] is at the forefront of the room being an incredible player, incredible person...but I'm happy to help out in any way I can."
Between putting a new defense on the field for the first time and changing diapers during a playoff push in December, the 2020 season will surely feel different to Ioannidis. Like this offseason, there will undoubtedly be new challenges in the months to come. But thanks to his new coaches and the expectations for the defensive line, Ioannidis is confident they will conquer them.
"With all the right pieces in the room, with two good coaches, I think that...we accomplished a lot this offseason," he said. "We had success. We've established the direction that we as a room, as a defense, want to go in. And we're excited to get going. We're excited for camp to come around and start rolling."