Commanders’ rookie ‘really happy’ he gets to play with vets like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne

Written by on May 18, 2024

Most of the attention surrounding the Washington Commanders in the lead-up to the 2024 NFL Draft was focused on the No. 2 overall pick, and rightly so. As the first selection of the new era under owner Josh Harris, general manager Adam Peters, and head coach Dan Quinn, the pick was going to be a tone-setter for how the organization will head into the future. And given that the pick was almost sure to be a quarterback, there was even more anticipation for it.

But Washington had a whole bunch of picks in the first few rounds of the draft, including one near the top of the second round. The Commies used that pick on Illinois defensive tackle Jer’Zhan “Johnny” Newton, who notched 5.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss in 2022, then followed it up with 7.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss in his final collegiate season. He was considered one of the top interior defensive linemen in the draft, and indeed, among players at that position, only Byron Murphy and Ruke Orhorhoro came off the board before him.

But the most interesting thing about his selection by Washington might be that the Commanders already have two strong defensive tackles in Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, who have been holding down the middle of the defense since 2017 and 2018, respectively. But Newton, rather than being concerned about playing time, is excited to team with the veterans ahead of him.

“You’re talking about guys I used to watch when they was in college, so transitioning to the NFL, of course, I still watched them,” Newton said, via the team’s official website. “Playing next to those guys, outstanding, an amazing feeling. [They’re] Older guys who have had success [in] college and in the NFL. So, I’m really happy.”

As for what he brings to the table, Newton was pretty clearheaded, zeroing in on where he can help.

“I have a great pre-snap recognition,” the rookie said. “I know which plays coming at which down and distance, which formation brings which play. So, I just feel like my knowledge on the game is very high compared to other people.”

Quinn likes to rotate his defensive linemen to keep them fresh, and is also excellent at generating matchups for pass rushers, whether on the edge or the interior. The Commanders have the luxury of being able to bring Newton along slowly rather than pushing him into action, but if he can tap into the skill set that made him a high second-round pick, it won’t be long before Quinn finds the best way to use him.

The post Commanders’ rookie ‘really happy’ he gets to play with vets like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne first appeared on CBS Sports.


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