The return of Matt Ioannidis will be huge for Washington’s defense in 2021

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The talk around the 2021 Washington Football Team centers on the celebrated defensive line, featuring four former first-round picks and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Terry McLaurin.

Each of these players gives Washington fans plenty to be excited about.

However, another standout player many may have forgotten is defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis.

Ioannidis, 27, is entering his sixth NFL season in 2021. The former Temple Owl tore his bicep in Week 3 of the 2020 season and was placed on injured reserve. Washington would go on to finish No. 2 in total defense without Ioannidis.

Surprisingly, many fans have short memories of how good of a player Ioannidis is. Before the 2021 NFL draft, any fan-generated trade on social media included Ioannidis.

It’s clear head coach Ron Rivera, and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio know what they have in Ioannidis.

Could Ioannidis actually be Washington’s best interior pass-rusher?

Brian Baldinger of the NFL Network and FOX Sports certainly thinks so.

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Entering 2021, Ioannidis has 22 career sacks — 16 of those sacks came in 2018 and 2019. From 2017-20, Pro Football Focus gave Ioannidis a pass-rushing grade of 70.6 or more in each of those four seasons. In 2018 and 2019, Ioannidis outperformed Jonathan Allen as an interior rusher.

To give you an indication of how good of an interior pass-rusher Allen is, Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire recently ranked him as the No. 9 interior pass-rusher in the NFL.

Add in Daron Payne and, arguably, no team in the NFL has that type of depth on the interior.

Ioannidis may not receive the hype of some of Washington’s other stud defenders like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Allen and Payne, but he’s clearly a respected member of what could be the NFL’s top defense in 2021.

While Ioannidis is an outstanding pass-rusher, his return should also shore up Washington’s run defense in 2021 — its biggest weakness in 2020.