Friday, February 7, 2014
Rookie Review: DE Cornelius Washington
By Michael C. Wright
Stats: 1 tackle for lost yardage.
2013 Role: A sixth-round draft pick out of Georgia, Washington showed promise early but never seized a full-time role. The Bears listed Washington among the team’s inactives for the season opener against Cincinnati, and although he was active the next two games, the defensive end didn’t receive any playing time. Washington made his regular-season debut on Sept. 29 against the Detroit Lions, only to be put back on the shelf for the next three weeks as an inactive. Washington received playing time again on Nov. 10 against Detroit and contributed a tackle, but didn’t play the next week against Baltimore. The club made Washington inactive over its final six games. On the season, Washington played just 10 snaps.
The good: Washington possesses the physical attributes (6-foot-4, 265 pounds) to “transcend scheme” as general manager Phil Emery so often likes to say, because of his explosive power and speed off the edge. When Washington put all that together along with sound fundamentals, he certainly looked like the player the Bears hoped he’d be when they drafted him. Washington produced 76 tackles and 63 quarterback pressures in college, and flashed some of that ability in spurts as a rookie.
The bad: Washington played four different positions in college. So when the Bears brought him in to play defensive end in their four-man front, an adjustment period was expected. Fundamentally, Washington struggled to consistently execute proper hand placement and gain adequate leverage on opposing offensive linemen. When “he did it right,” Washington looked the part, according to one staffer. The problem was Washington didn’t do it right often enough, which is why in the midst of an injury-riddled 2013 for the defensive line, the Bears never called upon the rookie to play significant minutes. The team couldn’t trust him to make a meaningful contribution.
Looking ahead: Washington possesses the physical foundation of speed and explosive power. But he needs to use the offseason to sharpen fundamentals, in addition to adding some pass-rushing moves to his repertoire. At the moment, Washington remains a raw, developmental player, who needs to take a major step if he expects to gain the staff’s trust heading into 2014. There’s been speculation the Bears could experiment with a 3-4 front next season, and if that’s truly the case, Washington could potentially make a move to linebacker because he’s versatile enough to pull it off. If the Bears remain a 4-3 front, Washington probably won’t become an every-down defender next season. But he could contribute in a role as a designated pass-rusher on passing downs.