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Lions' Washington making most of what's handed to him

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Allen Park – Rookie running back Dwayne Washington saw an uptick in playing time in the Lions’ second exhibition last week.

Following the release of veteran Stevan Ridley on Thursday, Washington could help his chances of securing a roster spot with an even longer look in Saturday’s exhibition against the Baltimore Ravens.

Washington, a seventh-round pick, has shown flashes and opened some eyes this preseason. He displayed his blazing speed on a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers and his hard-nosed running with a 5-yard rushing score and two-point conversion versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I’ve been impressed with some of the things he’s done,” offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said earlier this week. “When the guy gets the ball he does impressive things. That’s a good trait to have.

“He’s a young guy. He’s got plenty to learn. He’s getting better in pass-pro every day, like to see him keep coming in that realm, but we’re going to hand him the ball some more and see what he does.”

Lions hope investment in special teams pays off

Washington played the fewest snaps of the running backs in the exhibition opener against the Steelers with 12 (five offense, seven special teams) before receiving nearly three times as many versus the Bengals with 32 (23 offense, nine special teams).

Through two exhibitions, Washington leads the running back unit with 43 yards rushing on eight carries and 4.3 yards-per-carry average. He also has one catch for 15 yards.

"I felt like I’ve done pretty good (in the preseason) but there's still small details that I can work out,” Washington said. “But overall, I feel like I'm doing pretty good. I feel like I fit into this system very well."

At 6-foot-1 and 223 pounds, Washington considers himself to be a power back despite running a 4.44-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He said he feels comfortable running between the tackles, being used in short-yardage and goal-line situations, catching out the backfield and doing whatever is needed on special teams.

With the running back competition whittled down to a three-man race among Zach Zenner, George Winn and Washington for likely two spots, coach Jim Caldwell said production will be the most important determination for who’s in and who’s out.

“Certainly the kickoff return kind of gave you a really good idea of what he could do,” Caldwell said of Washington this week. “But then even some of the runs that he’s had in games in spurts and also in practice. He’s strong, he’s powerful, he gets his shoulders square and he can make you miss.

“The two-point play on the goal line kind of gave you an idea where the linebacker was unblocked, he side-stepped him and got it in the end zone, so he’s got some talent. I think you’ll just continue to see him get better and better as he understands what to do on every single play in great detail.”

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

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