Commanders DT Daron Payne tipped to take NFL by storm in 2024

The pressure is on to produce in 2024.
Daron Payne
Daron Payne / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Not many on the Washington Commanders roster covered themselves in glory last season. Aside from a 2-0 start, the campaign was an unmitigated disaster once again. Perhaps the most surprising disappointment of all centered on the defensive front.

Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne came into the campaign as one of the league's premier defensive tackle tandems. Unfortunately, they both showed signs of regression through poor performances, an indifferent supporting cast, and a distinct lack of motivation as another season descended into chaos under Ron Rivera.

Payne, in particular, was criticized heavily for failing to build on his breakout 2022 campaign. This saw the former first-round pick out of Alabama get a hefty contract extension for his efforts. But with bigger money comes raised expectancy - something the interior force couldn't match last time around.

Commanders should expect big things from Daron Payne in 2024

That said, all hope is not lost with Payne. Far from it, actually.

The re-energized atmosphere across the franchise coupled with Dan Quinn and Joe Whitt Jr.'s defensive prowess provides fresh hope that Payne and others can restore order. This was a sentiment echoed by Bradley Locker from Pro Football Focus, who named the lineman as the Commanders player with the best chance to bounce back in 2024.

"[Daron] Payne has established himself as one of the more solid interior defenders across the NFL, but his past season wasn’t his finest. He tallied 14 fewer pressures despite having 32 additional opportunities to rush the passer. With Washington drafting Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton in the second round, new head coach Dan Quinn could turn to more of a rotation along the Commanders’ defensive line, which might reduce Payne’s pressure numbers even further. Then again, as Payne enters the second year of his $90 million extension, he’s unlikely to go anywhere. A more motivated Payne — who also happens to clean up his tackling — could return to being an amazing pass rusher in 2024."

Bradley Locker, PFF

When Payne is firing on all cylinders, he's incredibly difficult to stop. He's got violent hands and explosive tendencies in pass-rushing situations. If the player can develop his prowess against the run, there's a lot to like about his chances of thriving under the exceptional guidance of Quinn and Whitt.

If Allen can also put his newfound positivity to good use, the Commanders will have a superb defensive anchor from which to build. Their edge-rushing options received much-needed reinforcements to further assist. They also added two potentially dominant linebackers in Bobby Wagner and Frankie Luvu - something the team's needed for years.

Payne will be counted upon more than most. He's entering his prime and is one of the team's highest-paid players, counting $21.61 million against the salary cap. Anything less than Pro Bowl-caliber production won't be well received.

It took Payne a while to fulfill his promise in the pros. Some have also questioned whether his 2022 production was down to his contract status. What's important is ignoring the outside noise, focusing on the task at hand, and righting some wrongs.

After that, the performance levels should take care of themselves. But what comes next is down to Payne during his quest to cement himself as a cornerstone piece under Quinn.