Updated: Nov 22, 2021
By Adam Aniba
Washington's injury report continues to grow, particularly along the defensive line. With Montez Sweat out for at least another 4-5 weeks with a broken jaw, Chase Young done for the year (ACL tear) and Shaka Toney out with a concussion, Jack Del Rio's defense suddenly is thin at defensive end.
Although defensive tackle Jonathan Allen has been one of the most dominate interior lineman in the NFL, more sub-packages at DE are surely on the way. On the season, Allen has participated in approximately 71% of the defenses snaps, but saw an increase to 81% vs TB. In comparison, Daron Payne participated in 79% of the snaps vs the Bucs with Matt Ioannidis 52%. It seems James Smith-Williams (79% vs TB) will continue to get the lion's share of reps with Sweat out and Casey Toohill *(60% vs TB) on the other side.
As mentioned, Allen's ability to line up at DE in sub-packages help this defense tremendously with Payne, Ioannidis and Tim Settle manning the interior. Although Del Rio has lined up Allen on the outside on occasion, since the switch to the 4-3 base, insided is where Allen's home has been.
The matchup vs the Panthers who just added Cam Newton, certainly present a challenge for this defensive line who is missing their fastest pass rushers.
Through nine games, Allen has recorded 31 tak (16 solo), 8 tfl, 20 qb hits, 21 pressures and 6 sacks. With 8 games to go, the former Alabama defensive lineman is only 3 pressures and 2 sacks away from tying career highs.
During the 2017 draft, Aleen dropped out of the top 10 due to multiple shoulder dislocations suffered while at Alabama. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (the nations best defender) suffered torn cartilage and arthritis due to the dislocations. Since playing in only 5 games during his rookie season, Allen has only missed 1 games since 2018.
With the return of Cam Newton to Carolina after being released by New England prior to week #1, the game plan on defense certainly shifted. Stopping the run will now be priority #1 with Newton still learning a new offense under HC Matt Rhule. The loss of Young and Sweat cannot be understated, but this isn't the Cam of old.
JDR likely deploys more stunts and LB blitzes with an aging Newton under center, opening the door for a potential dominating day for the defense. This is not to say that Newton can't shred a battered Washington defense, especially with a healthy Christian McCaffrey. Expect a lot of screens and short/intermediate passes as Newton's learning curve in Carolina starts this Sunday.
Ahead of the Carolina matchup, storylines have been Rivera's return to Carolina along with the former Panther coaches/players he brought along the way and of course, Cam's returning to his old stomping ground. The truth is, Allen and the performance by the defense without Young and Sweat, could end up being the story of the game.