Snider: Redskins Score Big with Jonathan Allen

by Rick Snider

The Washington Redskins hit the trifecta.

They drafted defensive end Jonathan Allen at No. 17 on Thursday. Allen could have gone as high as No. 2, but slid to the Redskins after an avalanche of offensive picks filled the board.

Allen also fills a need, which wasn’t that hard given Washington has many. But still, he’s the best defensive lineman the team has drafted since Bobby Wilson in 1991. At least one hole in the defense is now filled.

And, Allen is a local who grew up near Redskins Park. He’ll be an instant fan favorite, something the Redskins need.

It couldn’t have gone any better for Washington.

After months of preparation, Washington simply gained a top player because three teams unexpectedly gambled on quarterbacks while others feared Allen’s reported arthritic shoulders wouldn’t last long in the NFL. Forget all the chaos over general manager Scot McCloughan’s departure. This was so simple the Redskins could have let bloggers make the pick.

“There was not a lot of debate in there,” coach Jay Gruden said. “We put the card in and took a heck-of-a football player and a great person.”

Allen was a must pick for the Redskins, whose defensive line has been mediocre at best for years. They needed an impact player up front to lead the pass rush. The Redskins waited a few minutes before turning in the card only to see if someone was desperate enough to overspend in a trade, but the deep draft still offered several more top players to prevent anyone from trading up. It’s a good thing the Redskins weren’t tempted to overthink the pick.

“You talk about upgrading your defense,” Gruden said, “well, you have to pick a guy high. You have to take the best at the position and he’s the best defensive lineman we thought in the draft. Like I said, we never thought he would be there, but the chance to really add another big bodied guy who can do a lot of different things.”

Allen should be an opening starter on the right side. The nation’s top college defender can pass rush inside or out while also handling the run. He may be a little undersized, but that’s correctable. And having played at Alabama means Allen is also used to a serious, professional approach.

Now a native son who watched Donovan McNabb come to Washington’s training camp and whom offensive tackle Trent Williams watched play in high school with the latter’s nephew is a Redskin. It seems too good to be true.

“I’m going to be honest, I was so emotional, it was hard for me. I kind of blacked out,” said Allen of the phone call from the Redskins. “I don’t really remember the specifics of what was said. But I do remember [Gruden] saying, ‘We didn’t think we’d get you, but we’re blessed and lucky to have you.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m lucky that you took me.'”

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.

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