Robust DE Cornelius Washington pays dividends for Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Lions' Cornelius Washington will serve as a captain this Sunday against the Bears.

Allen Park —  The Lions have been getting a quiet return on their investment with Cornelius Washington and this week the defensive end will serve as one of the team’s captains against his former team, the Chicago Bears.

Washington has always offered a world of untapped potential. He has the prototypical build for his position, he posted dominant numbers at the scouting combine when he came out of Georgia in 2013, but the production hasn’t quite been there.

He wasn’t a great scheme fit in Chicago and peaked at 20 tackles and 2.0 sacks, the same number of times he dropped the quarterback in Detroit’s win over Cleveland last week.

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“I think, been trending toward a more prominent stat line,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Let’s put it that way, because he’s got power, and he’s got strength, and he hustles. He gets after it. And it was good to see him get a couple.”

Washington’s power is his defining trait. He might not rack up a bunch of sacks, but he’s able to physically overwhelm offensive tackles and tight ends on the edge, pushing them back and collapsing the pocket.

His 18 pass-rush pressures match the output of teammate Ziggy Ansah, despite Washington playing 20 fewer snaps.

Washington has been even more effective against the run. He’s made eight tackles on 85 run plays, an impressive clip for an edge defender.

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His ability to use his power was on full display last weekend when he drove a Browns tight end across the formation and into running back Isaiah Crowell. The defender recorded a tackle without even touching the ball carrier, something he didn’t realize until he heard the PA announcer at the stadium giving him credit for the stop.

“(His power is) also a factor on plays away,” Caldwell said. “And that’s the difference in this league. If you don’t get a guy cut off from the backside in this league, there’s a pretty good chance they’re going to make a play because everybody can run. So, he gives us that sort of a power which is certainly effective on plays both to him and away from him.”

With Ansah ailing, Washington will be in line for a second consecutive start this Sunday against the Bears.

Twitter: @justin_rogers