The Washington Redskins had a busy off-season, losing several key offensive weapons, while also dealing with questions surrounding their starting quarterback Kirk Cousins and his contract issues in DC.
After a 2016 season which saw them just miss out on the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record, Washington had a very strange and tumultuous off-season that has been well documented.
However, the defense might have been the unit under the most scrutiny heading into the off-season.
In 2016, Washington’s run defense gave up 100 or more yards in a game ten times.
The Redskins also gave up 140 or more rushing yards six times, including allowing 163 yards against Cleveland and Dallas.
Second year defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis feels the group, though, is poised to rebound from a poor 2016 campaign.
“I feel very confident with this defense, we have a lot of play makers dedicated to the cause,” Ioannidis said.
Their run defense was ranked 28th in 2016 as they gave up 119.8 yards per contest, and the unit suffered from the play of their defensive front seven.
The unit was criticized during the season by fans and media and that is something Ioannidis doesn’t take lightly, but yet also doesn’t seem bothered by it.
“I can just focus on what I control and I really do not worry about what others say,” he added.
“Without being bias, the defensive line,” when he was asked about the key to the team’s success going into the season.
Several linebackers at times held their own, as Will Compton and Mason Foster put up solid numbers.
However, Washington will lose one of their best linebackers for the first four games of the season, as Trent Murphy was suspended back in March for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy.
Murphy will be suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games, but did participate in off-season workouts and can play in the preseason.
It’s a huge loss for Washington because the 26-year-old Murphy was second on the club with nine sacks last year, trailing only Ryan Kerrigan.
He had 47 tackles at linebacker after the Redskins went into training camp planning to move him to the defensive line.
Washington, though, was active in the off-season and signed Zack Brown, who is a solid run defender and good covering in space.
Brown is coming off a breakout Pro Bowl season with the Bills, posting 149 tackles, to go along with four sacks, one interception, and four passed defended. He add two forced fumbles and will be an immediate upgrade over incumbent inside linebacker Compton and next to Foster on the interior line.
The team also drafted Alabama’s Johnathan Allen with the No. 17 overall pick in April’s draft and his college teammate outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in the second round.
“He (Allen) is a terrific athlete and terrific guy and it is great having him here and I got to know him and I am glad he is here,” Ioannidis concluded.