Commanders capture Alabama’s Phidarian Mathis and Brian Robinson Jr. on Day 2 of the NFL Draft

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After turning to the Big Ten for a playmaker in the first round of the NFL Draft, the Washington Commanders went all over Alabama on Day 2 to strengthen their defensive line and add their rushing corps.

As No. 47 overall in the second round, Washington took on Phidarian Mathis, a 6-foot-4, 310-pound defensive tackle from Alabama. So in the third round, using the 98th pick it received from the Saints on Thursday, Washington hit one of Mathis’ college teammates, driving back Brian Robinson Jr.

“We got tougher today,” General Manager Martin Mayhew said Friday night.

Mathis is now Commander’s third defensive tackle from Alabama and joins starters Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

Commander’s draft tracker: On Day 2, Washington turns to Alabama to bolster both sides of the ball

“They are my big brothers,” Mathis said. “… Payne, we talk all the time. It’s a blessing to be back with Payne and also get a chance to play with Jonathan Allen. ”

Mathis provides at least much-needed depth on a line that lost its two best reserves, Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis, in this offseason and often switches players to keep its starters fresh.

“Not just depth, but a guy you know will get snaps,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “Matt played over 50 percent of the snaps, and this is a young man who will have the opportunity to play a good number of them, too.”

Mathis could at most be seen as a future starter. Washington had to face difficult decisions with its starting line-up, which is made up of all first-round picks. It re-signed Allen last year and it will soon have to pay higher wages for ends Montez Sweat and Chase Young.

Payne could be the strange man. He is only under contract for one more season and if he has not been traded or re-signed earlier, he will be a free agent in March. When asked if Mathis’ draft changed how he felt about Payne, Rivera immediately replied, “No, not at all.”

“This again is about bringing a guy in, giving him the opportunity to contribute and being a part of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “I think people jump to the conclusion that just because you do nothing now does not mean you can do nothing later. Many things have changed. … When you get a veteran quarterback who has a salary, it will affect your salary cap and how you react to it. It’s a difficult thing as you figure out the best way to pay players and sometimes you can not do it right away. That is the situation we are in now. “

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Even though they are only 11 months apart in age, Mathis, 24, was a rookie on the red shirt in Alabama in 2017 when Payne was starting junior. After spending his time for a few years, Mathis was elevated to a starter, showing his strength as a running stopper while showing his potential as a pass-rusher. Last season, he finished second on the team with nine sacks and had 25 quarterback pressure. He was also named team captain, who he believes fascinated Washington coaches.

“They know my leadership, they know I’m a hard worker, they know I love football, they know I’m a great role model,” Mathis said. “It’s just the things they told me.”

Like Jahan Dotson, who admitted in the first round that he did not expect to be taken as high as he was, Mathis said he expected to go in the third or fourth. Rivera said it was probably due to his agent trying to control his expectations prior to the draft. But that was not the only reason Mathis was surprised to get the call from Washington.

“The crazy thing was, we could not find a hat,” Mathis said. “It’s the only hat we did not have. My father came from Atlanta and he said he found this hat. It’s not Commander’s hat; it’s just Washington. I said to my father, ‘Man, it’s going crazy , if they call me and that’s the only hat I do not have. ‘

Robinson, a 23-year-old fullback built more like a linebacker, adds size to a rushing corps led by Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic. Like Mathis, Robinson had to wait years behind a number of talented backs in Alabama, including Damien Harris, Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs. But when he was beaten, his production was conspicuous.

Named the first-team All-SEC last season after a total of 271 carries for 1,343 rushing yards and a conference-high 14 rushing touchdowns, Robinson has been described by analysts as a “bruiser” and a “bulldozer” that translates to more of a short- yardage back in the NFL. In Alabama, he showed a bit of his versatility by counting 35 catches for 296 receiving yards and a few touchdowns and contributing on special teams.

More importantly though: Robinson had only two fumbles in his 66 career games in Alabama.

“I saw the statistics flash that this is a guy who breaks tackles, over 800 yards after contact,” Rivera said. “It’s pretty impressive. And he’s been consistent in protecting football throughout his career. He’s also a different type of back than what we get from Antonio and what we get from JD. We have a trifecta of guys like you. will feel really comfortable in terms of mixing things up. ”

Washington has five choices left – two each in the fourth and seventh rounds and one in the sixth. The team still needs help from the linebacker and has not yet added its secondary group, which lacks a “Buffalo” nickel and depth across the line.

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