Commanders DT Phidarian Mathis making ‘great progress’ in return from knee injury

The Washington Commanders selected Alabama defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft. Most believed Mathis was an eventual replacement for Daron Payne, who was scheduled to be a free agent in the 2023 offseason.

It didn’t help that there was the report around draft time that said the Commanders weren’t expected to offer Payne a long-term extension.

Do you think they regret that decision now?

Payne, only 25, is coming off a breakout season in which he tied the franchise record of 11.5 sacks by a defensive tackle and also finished No. 4 in the NFL in tackles for loss [18].

Meanwhile, Mathis injured his knee in the season opener against Jacksonville and was lost for the season. This was particularly troubling as the Commanders allowed Tim Settle to leave via free agency and cut Matt Ioannidis in a salary-cap move.

Fortunately for Washington, the Dallas Cowboys waived fifth-round pick John Ridgeway and the Commanders signed him to their active roster. The Cowboys were hoping to sneak him to the practice squad.

Ridgeway would prove to be a smart addition for Washington, spelling Payne and Jonathan Allen in 2022. The good news is that he and Mathis are under contract for the next three seasons on rookie deals.

What about Mathis’ injury?

It sure sounds like the 6-foot-4, 313-pounder is on the right track.

“I’ve been here the whole time,” Mathis said, per Zach Selby of “I trust the trainers in there. We’ve been making great progress.”

In spending the season rehabbing in Ashburn, Mathis said Washington’s training staff has been outstanding, helping him recover faster than he initially believed.

Mathis struggled after the injury, knowing he’d miss his entire rookie season after only a handful of plays. 

“It was very hard to take, a tough pill to swallow, for sure,” Mathis said. “The first couple of weeks, I was down, I was out, but I just put it in God’s hands and let him handle the rest.”

Depending on what happens with Payne, Mathis could be counted upon heavily in 2023. It’s something he’s ready for. 

“I’m gonna give it another try next year,” Mathis said. “I’m gonna come back even harder.”

Having Mathis and Ridgeway is good news for Washington — with or without Payne. Of course, Washington hopes Payne is back, but if he isn’t, the Commanders have two young defensive tackles ready for the opportunity.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire

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