by Jacob Troxell and Ben Standig
ASHBURN -- Getting your chance in the National Football League is not something that happens overnight. It takes years of preparation and sacrifice at the high school and college level, and for those who are lucky enough to get drafted, it takes an impressive few months in training camp and practice to make an NFL team want to keep them.
For Matt Ioannidis, it took two All-Conference nominations, 30 tackles for loss and 118 total tackles at Temple University to get drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fifth round.
It took a few games into his rookie season to figure out the NFL game. At least he's getting that opportunity.
Ioannidis was cut by the Redskins on September 3, but was then signed to the team's practice squad. On September 19, Washington put defensive tackle Kenrick Golston on injured reserve and added Ioannidis to the active roster. He is now the backup nose tackle for the Redskins’ 3-4 defense.
“I would say the game has slowed down a ton for me, I’m starting to feel comfortable, I’m starting to feel the same way I did in college where I like can perform at a high level,” Ioannidis told Breaking Burgundy. “Every week is just trying to increase that level of comfortableness.”
Mostly a defensive tackle in college, head coach Jay Gruden defined Ioannidis' position vaguely as a defensive lineman in July because of his diverse skillset. Ioannidis prepared this summer learning the full extent of the Redskins’ overall 3-4 scheme instead of just one positional point of view so he could be prepared to play any of the three, but now he has found himself at the nose tackle position.
“I think (the transition) is going well, I think from the time that the coaches signed me up after my two weeks of practice squad I think I performed well and I think I’ve done what they asked me to do,” Ioannidis said. “I think every week that has gone by I’ve progressed more, so I’m just going to do what they tell me to do and do it well. “
In 3-4 defensive scheme, the lone defensive tackle is referred to as a nose tackle and is responsible for drawing double teams, creating one-on-one opportunities for defensive ends and linebackers in the pass rush, while clogging up the middle of the line in the running game. Typically, defensive tackles are a bit lighter and quicker in 4-3 defenses. After drafting him, Gruden said he visualizes the 6’3” 308 pound Ioannidis as a nose tackle. That has taken some adjustment for the 22-year old.
“I think just playing nose guard as a rookie there is just so much technique that goes into it and through my two weeks that I was on (the practice squad) I really went back to the emphasis of fundamentals,” Ioannidis said. “So that I attribute my recent success to, is going back to basics."
While getting cut was certainly not what the rookie old had hoped for, Ioannidis says that he tried to move forward with a positive mindset.
“Obviously it hurts (to get cut), I think everyone would say that it hurts, but you can’t let it break you,” Ioannidis said. “You can’t let it beat you, you just have to learn from it and grow as a player and grow mentally, because at the end of the day, I am a rookie.”
Ioannidis has played in five games this season and made four tackles, two of them coming in the Redskins’ 16-10 victory over the Ravens in Week 5.
Ioannidis got a taste of winning football in his first four games on the active roster, as the Redskins reeled off four straight wins, but after a loss in Detroit put them at 4-3, The Redskins will look to finish with an above .500 record going into their Week 9 bye week. The Redskins will travel to London to play the Cincinnati Bengals this week, and Ioannidis said he has never been there before, and plans to spend time with his mom while across the pond.
“It’s going to be her birthday so I’m looking forward to spending a little bit of time with my parents out in London that will be great.”
Ben Standig reported from Redskins Park in Ashburn
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