Stuart McNair

Comments from Redskins Coach Jay Gruden and Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen was pleased to be selected by Washington

Jonathan Allen was the second of four Alabama players selected in the first round of the NFL draft.

Allen, a native of Leesburg, Va., grew up a fan of the Washington Redskins, and was selected 17th in the first round.

Both the Redskins and Allen were pleased with the outcome, and both had good things to say about the way players are prepared for professional football by Coach Nick Saban at Alabama.

Here are comments from Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden on Allen, followed by what Allen had to say about being taken by the Redskins.

Jay Gruden on Jonathan Allen:

“There really wasn’t anything not to like, really. We like his size, we like his strength, we like his ability to rush the passer, play the run. He’s a very versatile guy – he can play all the positions on defensive line. Really, never in a million years did we think he would be there at 17, but we’re happy-as-heck he was. There was not a lot of debate in there – we put the card in and took a heck-of-a football player and a great person.”

On if there were any injury concerns for Allen:

“We didn’t have any concerns. We talked to Dr. [James] Andrews and he gave us the thumbs up on him. Plus, we feel very good about the injuries. As far as him falling to us, there were a lot of things that happened in the draft. Three quarterbacks went, a couple of receivers went pretty high, a lot of offensive players went that probably not a lot of people expected, so some of these very good defensive players fell to us. We’re happy. It’s something that we really wanted to upgrade our defensive line obviously [and] to get a player like that, a leader like Jonathan. Talking with Coach [Nick] Saban at the University of Alabama last week, [he] had nothing but high praise for him – his character, his play on the field, what he does off the field, what he means as a leader to that Alabama football team. This is just a great pick. It’s a no-brainer. You’re taking a great person, a great player, a big body, a guy that can do a little bit of everything on defensive line.”

On if there was temptation to move up in the draft as Allen fell closer to No. 17:

“There was a couple of guys that were slipping that we really liked. We were in a very good situation. We had two or three guys that we really felt good about with that pick. But Jonathan had our highest grade and it was an easy pick for us.”

On waiting several minutes to turn in Allen’s selection:

“You just want to wait and see if there’s an offer too good to refuse maybe, but just we talked it over – the staff, defensive staff, scouts. It’s an important time. We don’t need to turn in the card right away. But we talked about it and it was a consensus deal and we are happy as heck about it.”

On Allen being the team’s first defensive selection in the first round since linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in 2011 and if he now imagines the possibilities with those two playing together:

“Yeah, it’s exciting and it’s something we needed to do. That’s a great point because it was the first [defensive] pick we’ve had in the first round we since Kerrigan. You talk about upgrading your defense, 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… Add him with [Terrell] McClain, Ziggy [Hood] and the guys that we have in the building – the Laniers [Anthony Lanier II], some of the young guys, [Stacy] McGee. We think we have a pretty good group now.”

On Allen saying he ‘blacked out’ from excitement on the phone call:

"Well, there was a long pause on the phone. I thought we got disconnected there. I think we were both equally excited. He's a local kid obviously, so he's close to home now and he's a Redskins fan and we're obviously a fan of him."

On what it is that he can bring to the front:

"Versatility. You talk about our front, we have guys that can play the run pretty good, but this guy can do everything. He can line up at a 3, he can line up at a 5, he can line up at a nose if you want him to. He can stunt, he can play the run, but he can rush the passer. In the last two years, I think he has 22.5 sacks, 25 or 30 more hurries on the quarterback and that versatility is hard to find this day and age in defensive linemen, it really is. Big bodied guys usually are just run stoppers, they're not able to rush the passer as effectively as he is. And that's a big need for us."

On when he sees Allen’s contributing:

“He’s the 17th pick in the draft. He will contribute – tomorrow. Right now.”

On what Allen gained by returning to Alabama for his senior year:

“I think any time you can add that type of work your senior year, especially when you’re getting coached by Coach Saban and that staff over there at Alabama and to play with that team and be a leader on that defense that’s so successful, I think it can only benefit you, really. And he could’ve come out last year and been a first-rounder too, but it just shows the type of character he is. He wanted to go back to school and finish with his guys. Just talking to Coach Saban, he had nothing but great things to say about him, obviously. Really it was wishful thinking, I thought. I said there’s no way, I don’t even want to ask questions about Jonathan. There’s no way he’s dropping. Luckily we did. And we know a lot about the kid. He’s a local kid. We’re tickled to death to get him.”  

On if he saw improvement in Allen’s run defense from his junior and senior seasons at Alabama:

“Well, no question. He’s gotten a little bit stronger, he’s a better player. Anytime you have another year in the system, you’re going to be a better player. I think he played the run a lot better this year and obviously added to his sack total. He was voted the best defensive lineman in college football so there’s a reason for that. He’s doing multiple things well, you know? It’s not just one thing. That’s the thing that really draws you to him. It’s like, OK, he can stop the run, he can rush, he does it all. Not to mention his character off the field is top notch.”

On if he entertained any calls about a potential trade for Kirk Cousins:

“Not one call. Not one. There was no talk about it. Nothing.”

And here’s what Jonathan Allen had to say about being selected by Washington:

On playing close to home:

“It’s a blessing. It’s only something you read about in books – it doesn’t even seem real. For me to be going back home to Washington, it’s honestly just the biggest blessing I could have ever received.”

On if reported medical issues affected his draft position:

“You know, I don’t know, that’s a tough question. I feel like it was definitely in the back of some teams’ mind. I don’t know. At this point, I’m really not even worried about that. I’m just blessed and happy to be a Washington Redskin now. I’m looking forward to getting to work and proving I belong there.”

On how much he followed and knew about the Redskins:

“You know, I’m always – I knew about the Redskins. The last couple of years, I kind of fell off because I was at Alabama. Honestly, when I was in college, I really didn’t watch too much football. But, growing up, that’s who you root for. I still remember days where I went to the first summer practice when I watched Donovan McNabb when we first got Donovan McNabb. It’s just crazy that I’m actually going to be out there playing with them now.”

On how he describes his game and if he patterns it after anyone:

“I feel like I’m a very versatile player. I’m able to do many things in many different positions. As for players I try to style my game after, kind of two guys that come to mind are Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald out of the Rams. Those are two guys that I love to watch and just clip-ups of them whenever I got the opportunity to.”

On what things he learned from watching them:

“Just the mentality that they had going into every play. I mean, you never see those guys take a play off. Just their tenacity and how they play they play the game is just what I love about them the most.”

On how he can contribute given recent departures on the Redskins’ defensive line:

“I’m looking to come in and make an immediate impact, but that comes through hard work. I’m looking to come there and just bust my butt and try to contribute to the team in any way possible.”

On why he returned for his senior season:

“I feel like there was things that I still needed and wanted to accomplish. Looking back, there were some things I wanted to improve on in my game before I made that transition to the next level, and I feel like I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish by going back.”

On what he wanted to improve upon by returning:

“Definitely my run game. My run game was definitely something that I really wanted to come back and really stout up before I headed to the next level because up until that point, I really wasn’t asked to do it as much. So by doing that, I definitely feel like I’ve improved my run defense.”

On areas which he can still improve at the next level:

“Making this next jump to the NFL is just the beginning for me. I still have a lot of room to improve – football knowledge, my body, physically, mentally, emotionally. Anything you can think of, so I’m just going to try to be a sponge and absorb as much I can and take in as much as I can. Just bust my butt every day.”

On who called him from the Redskins and what the conversation was like:

“Coach Gruden and the owner. And I’m going to be honest, I was so emotional, it was hard for me. I kind of blacked out, I feel like, so I don’t really remember the specifics of what was said. But I do remember him 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.’ But it was a great conversation.”

On who is with him at the Draft:

“From my family, I have my fiancée, I have all my brothers and my little sister, my brother’s kids and his wife, uncles, aunts, friends, high school coach and his wife. So just a ton of people here.”

On his journey with his family:

“I mean, this has been a long time coming, just all the hard work and dedication you put [in], just to see it payoff is amazing. So, I mean, this is just the beginning of my journey. Hopefully I have a long and successful career with the Washington Redskins.”

On how Alabama prepared him for the NFL:

“I definitely feel well prepared to take this next step. Mentally, from a mental aspect, that is something I am very proud of. It’s something that Coach [Nick] Saban really pushed, you know, when your college. So I feel like that’s one aspect that I’m very well prepared with, but with that being said, I don’t know because if I’ve never been through it. So I’m going to go in there and just take it day-by-day and trust the process.”

On what it was like to sit and wait longer than anticipated to be picked:

“It’s tough. I mean, it’s tough. But when you do get that phone call, it’s definitely a load off your shoulders. So to receive that call was just a blessing.”

On which NFL player he looks forward most to tackling this season:

“You know, I haven’t even thought about that yet, you know? If I had to choose, I would say Tom Brady only because in my opinion he is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, so just to have that opportunity would be a blessing.”

On if he gets to go home after practice now because he lives so close:

“To my home, hopefully. Definitely going back is exciting but I kind of want to branch out and make my own way, you know? So I’m excited but I definitely will be spending a lot of weekends at the family's house.”

On if his slide down the draft board will be extra motivation:

“I mean, to an extent, but for me, my motivation is to prove why the Redskins were right and smart for drafting me. That’s going to be my motivation. So, I mean, it’s definitely going to sit in the back of my mind, but I have a job and I have a business to do, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

On if his shoulders have affected him during games:

“It hasn’t affected me. Especially this last year, I didn’t even wear a brace for the season. So, I mean, it doesn’t affect me. Every team I talked to, shoulders were medically cleared, no problems. Probably the best I’ve felt in the last four years, to be honest.”

On if there is any maintenance he needs to do for his shoulders off-the-field:

“Nothing that the average football player doesn’t have to do. Obviously, you’re going to have aches and pains from playing football, but, I mean, football and having a successful career is all about taking care of your body, and that’s for every player – whether you have a history of injuries or not. So that is definitely something I take pride in.”

On if he can see himself becoming a leader:

“Oh, definitely, 100 percent. You always look for that leadership role. But, I mean, in due time it’s all about respect. And I feel like the easiest way to earn respect is through hard work. That’s what I’m planning and that’s what I intend on doing.”


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