As players take their final breaks before training camp, Redskins.com will look back at the new faces from this offseason and what we've learned about them, football and otherwise, so far.
Today we’ll focus on defensive lineman Daron Payne.
1. He should provide a major boost to the run defense.
Payne impressed in OTAs and minicamp by playing mistake free football and reestablishing chemistry with his teammates from Alabama in Jonathan Allen, Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton. The defensive MVP of the College Football Playoff National Championship and Sugar Bowl is capable of clogging some of the largest holes for opposing running backs with his imposing 6-foot-3, 319-pound frame.
“I stop the run for a living, so I think that’s going to be something easy," Payne said in his opening press conference."We are just going to get to it and I'm just happy to put that hat on and go to work. So it’s going to be fun.”
The rookie's confidence is something that should excite Redskins fans because it demonstrates that he understands what is expected of him as a first-round draft pick.
"I’ve watched the guy [Payne] for two years," defensive line coach Jim Tomsula said. "A guy I was really excited about trying to get. He’s athletic, smart, and I like his DNA. I like who he is as a guy. The difference between confidence and arrogance is ignorance. I’ve got to have real confident guys, but you can’t cross over and be an arrogant guy because than you’re just ignorant. He’s got that confidence, he doesn’t say a lot and he just loves football.”
2. He is one of Alabama's most decorated defensive linemen.
It's no secret that Nick Saban leads some of the nation's most talented athletes every fall, which is why Payne's accomplishments with the Crimson Tide are notable.
The Birmingham, Ala., native played in 44 games in his three years under Saban, recording 102 tackles, two fumble recoveries and scoring a receiving touchdown for Steve Sarkisian's offense after intercepting a pass thrown by Kelly Bryant of Clemson in the Sugar Bowl. Those two plays by Payne served as game-sealers for the Crimson Tide's eventual victory, as their lead reached 20 after Payne's first career touchdown.
"With him controlling weight, working on initial quickness, getting to be a better technical pass-rusher, moving his hands and using his feet at the same time," Saban said an interview with ESPN's John Keim in June. "He's a driven a guy, so he'll do whatever you tell him to do, and he'll work hard at it."
3. He is going to be a freak in the weight room.
The rookie did a marvelous job at conditioning himself throughout his three years at Alabama, initially coming into the program at 350 pounds out of high school. He eventually dropped down to 320 pounds in order to give himself a better chance at stopping the SEC's running backs from reaching the second level, and weighed in at 311 pounds at the NFL Combine.
The No. 13-overall pick is back up to 319 pounds at this stage in the offseason, but what is more important to note is how his work ethic in the weight room has translated to his performance on the field.
Amazingly, while he was still around 350 pounds during his senior year at Shades Valley High School in Irondale, Ala., Payne was seen bench pressing between 445 and 460 pounds. While these figures might not be his new goals throughout his NFL career, it demonstrates how incredible of an athlete he is.
4. He and Jonathan Allen have very similar play styles.
Even when they are lining up without pads at OTAs and minicamp, the two defensive linemen are hard to differentiate because they have comparable techniques when trying to get through the offensive line. They are both very good on their feet despite their imposing size, and are extremely versatile for their positions.
In addition, the Ashburn, Va., native and Payne were recognized as two distinguished leaders on Saban's historically great defenses. On a defense that has somewhat already established its leaders, it's an added bonus for players like D.J. Swearinger Sr. and Ryan Kerrigan to have the former Crimson Tide teammates have their voices heard early on in their careers.
“I was just watching [Payne] last night, man," Swearinger said. "He’s holding it down up there. They can’t move that boy, I like it. Then I look right next to him and I see 93 [Allen] holding the same double team so it’s going to be hard to move 95 and 93 up there this year.”
5. He ranked No. 7-overall in the NFL's 2018 prospect grades.
The Birmingham, Ala., native received a score of 6.51, which tells us NFL scouts project that the rookie has a very strong chance to become a Pro-Bowl caliber player. The Alabama product finished higher on the list compared to the likes of No. 1-overall pick Baker Mayfield, Alabama teammate Minkah Fitzpatrick and his competition at the nose tackle position during the draft process in former Washington Husky defensive lineman Vita Vea.
If Payne is able to live up to his projections, the Redskins could be building something in him and Allen that could become as dominant as the "Williams Wall" of the Minnesota Vikings throughout the course of the 2006-2008 campaigns. The Vikings were the league's best rush defense in those three seasons, and held their opponents to an average of just under 71 rushing yards.
Of course, if the Redskins are able to even get somewhat near that figure, this defense completely changes its identity. There is a legitimate chance that with the talent it has, Washington could improve its run-stopping considerably.
This is of massive importance mainly because of the elite level of talent that the running back position has to offer in the NFC East, including the likes of Ezekiel Elliot, No. 2-overall pick Saquon Barkley and the dynamic approach of Corey Clemont and Jay Ajayi with the Philadelphia Eagles. If the defensive line can hold these backs to a minimum, the outlook of the NFC East could change in a matter of weeks this season.
Take a look at the images from Da'Ron Payne's first day with the Washington Redskins.
6. He has experience against Derrius Guice.
Payne's connections to the Redskins roster go beyond his teammates from Alabama. He was tasked with stopping LSU's two-headed monster of Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette in two of his three years with the Crimson Tide, and fought against Guice in one of the SEC's most coveted rivalry games this past season.
Payne and the Alabama defensive line held their own against Guice in their 24-10 win, keeping the Baton Rouge, La., native to just 71 yards on the ground.
While Guice may not have enjoyed going against the No. 13-overall pick the past three years, he realizes that they are both now working towards one ultimate goal. This starts with being on the same page at all times, and experiencing the journey that is an NFL career together.
"It’s one of those situations, you know, you face a team like Alabama once, twice a year, you know, and just knowing that I’ve got to prepare for the next level going against a team like that, where you're going against guys like that in the NFL every week," Guice said. "So, I'm more than prepared from playing in the SEC conference and it’s going to be something to watch this year.”
“Playing against him, it's like you just know what’s going to happen," Payne said in his opening press conference. "They are going to run the ball at you and it’s going to be a battle in the trenches. And I think we always get pumped up for those type of games because we tried to pride ourselves on stopping the run, but they've got a good group of guys over there so we did what we had to do.”
Check out these photos of the Washington Redskins Draft Fest Presented By Pepsi on Saturday, April 28, 2018, at FedExField in Landover, Md.
7. He was among the top draft board choices for Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams and head coach Jay Gruden.
The Redskins have been fortunate to land their top man in the draft the past two years, which is something that hardly any organization across the league can take pride in due to its unpredictable nature. Many teams, especially those that are selecting outside the Top-10, are forced to scramble for a secondary option when trying to land a specific player that fits their needs.
“Yeah, he was up there." Gruden said. "There’s a lot of scenarios we tried to play through and guys were getting picked and we’re happy as heck to get Daron. He’s one of our top guys.”
While it has been stated repeatedly, the Redskins checked off all the boxes this offseason when trying to address their needs from the previous years. It certainly gives Redskins fans more confidence in their team heading into the year.