In Jonathan Allen’s six years with Washington, the Commanders have made the playoffs once and haven’t finished a season with a winning record. When Washington participated in the postseason in 2020, the team qualified despite a 7-9 regular-season showing. Last season’s 8-8-1 mark stands as the Commanders’ best during Allen’s NFL career.
But during the offseason program, the former Alabama All-American senses something different about the 2023 team.
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“The offseason feels so long and so short at the same time, but I’m excited to be out here,” Allen said this week. “Really loving the energy and excited about what’s to come. …
“It just feels different. Again, I’m excited. You never want to get too excited before the season starts because every year every team is zero and zero, and we have a lot to prove and a lot to improve on. But I like where we’re starting at. And you know, we’ll see what happens.”
Among the changes for the Commanders since the 2022 season are offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who came aboard after 10 years on the Kansas City Chiefs’ staff, including as the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl winners.
“New energy from everywhere,” Allen said. “Coach Bienemy is out here just orchestrating things. Offense is looking really good. Defense is just another year under the system, another year with the core guys kept together. There’s a lot to be excited about.”
Another change in the works for Washington comes at the top of the franchise, where owner Dan Snyder has accepted an offer to sell the team.
“Honestly for the players, it doesn’t change much,” Allen said. “I’ve been saying this – and I know people probably didn’t believe me – but from a player’s standpoint, we’re focused on the season. Of course, Dan Snyder owning the team, we had to answer questions about it, but it really didn’t affect us as much as people may think.
“At the end of the day, I get paid to play double-teams and rush the passer. Whoever’s signing my paycheck, that doesn’t affect how I’m going to do my job. It just makes it so we don’t have to answer those questions no more. But for the defense and the D-line, it doesn’t change anything for us.”
But Allen also said he thought the impending sale of the team had contributed to the extra energy he was feeling.
“The fans, honestly, are probably more affected than I was,” Allen said. “I know a lot of fans were unhappy with how things were run, so just to see the energy from the fans, it’s just exciting. This is a great city, and I know that once we get things going and rolling, this season will be on fire, so I’m excited.”
Allen has been with Washington since being selected with the 17th choice in the 2017 NFL Draft.
At Alabama, Allen was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the 2016 season. In his third all-conference campaign, Allen also earned the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award and was a unanimous All-American selection. The Bednarik and Nagurski annually go to the nation’s best defensive player, and the Lombardi was presented annually to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker.
Allen has been a Pro Bowl selection in each of the past two seasons.
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Washington is in Phase 3 of its offseason program, when teams are allowed to conduct 10 days of organized team practice activity, often referred to as OTAs. The Commanders held their first three OTA practices this week. No contact work is permitted during these practices, but teams can expand their offseason workouts to include 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.
A mandatory minicamp also can be held during this period, which Washington has scheduled for June 6-8.
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Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.