With the NFL Draft completed, Redskins.com is breaking down the team's roster as it prepares for the 2020 campaign. Here are the positions that have been covered so far:
Next up are the defensive tackles. The Redskins will be switching to a 4-3 front thanks to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, and as a result, some players will be spending more time between the tackles. In addition to first-round picks Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, the Redskins also have Matt Ioannidis, who led the team with 8.5 sacks in 2019, and Tim Settle, who appeared in 15 games last year and recorded 14 tackles.
Caleb Brantley, who spent most of last season nursing a foot injury, will also return after re-signing with the team.
Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera have been working since January to transition the Redskins to a four-man front. They have tinkered with several defensive position groups over the past four months to match that philosophy, but the defensive line is not one of them.
The Redskins benefit from having two of their past four first-round draft picks in the interior of their defensive line, meaning they're likely set at the position for the foreseeable future. Payne is entering his third season, while the team recently exercised Allen's fifth-year option.
In the past two seasons, the Alabama duo has combined for 241 tackles and 21 sacks.
As it turns out, the switch to a 4-3 front will not be that jarring of a change for the defensive line. Allen recently told Kevin Sheehan on The Team 980 that the Redskins frequently were in a four-man front last year, so he already knows how to operate between the tackles. Still, he envisions a healthy rotation between him, Payne and the rest of the defensive tackles.
"It's going to keep guys fresh, we'll always have a fresh rush on the field...and I feel like we can really get after some people this year."
Ioannidis, who is coming off of his best statistical season, will also be a featured piece up front. There are only a handful of players on the Redskins' defense that had a better 2019 campaign than Ioannidis. In addition to leading the team with 8.5 sacks -- the fourth-most among all interior defensive linemen in the NFL last year -- he was fifth among his peers with a career-high 64 tackles. He also led the team with 16 quarterback hits.
Settle and Brantley round out the position. Although Settle only had one start in 2019, he played at least 30% of the defensive snaps in eight games and recorded 14 tackles, two sacks and five quarterback hits.
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It is clear that Rivera and Del Rio have confidence in the defensive line. Unlike other positions on that side of the ball, they have done little to alter the group as a whole.
As with the defensive ends, finding an adequate rotation to maximize production will be paramount. Several players in this position have proven over the course of their careers that they can operate as starters. That is the result of a team investing heavily in one group.
It is difficult to imagine the Redskins using one consistent starting lineup for the entirety of the 2020 season. The amount of talent affords the coaching staff some flexibility in that regard. And that still doesn't guarantee that those players will dominate the percentage of defensive plays.
That said, Allen, Payne and Ioannidis are the best players at the position; collectively, they will receive the bulk of the snaps. Settle has proven he can be productive when called upon, so he will also factor into the team's weekly game plan.
The biggest question facing the position is what Brantley will bring when he is fully recovered. Since coming from the Cleveland Browns in 2018, he has played in just eight games for the Redskins. The new regime re-signed him, though, and Brantley said he "can't wait" to be back on the field.
Rivera has said on multiple occasions that the defensive line was one of the factors that made the Redskins so enticing to him. After looking at what they have done in the past, it's easy to see why he wants to make them one of the foundational pieces for the new culture.