When Cornelius Washington came into the NFL, one of the quarterbacks he wanted to sack was a former teammate -- a guy he spent one year with at the University of Georgia.
“Because of good competition, he is someone I always wanted to get one on since I came into the league,” Washington said Friday. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to say that, but it was a very exciting time for me and so I’m glad it happened.
“I’m glad it happened.”
He also might be glad he won’t have that opportunity anymore. Washington on Friday signed a two-year, $5.825 million deal that could add an extra $2 million in bonuses related to sacks and playing time with the Lions. This means the defensive lineman will again be teammates with Stafford, negating his opportunity to pull down the guy he saw become one of the best quarterbacks in Georgia history when they overlapped at the school in 2008.
Washington didn’t say much to Stafford after sacking him -- mostly because Stafford didn’t give him the chance after he fought through his initial move, failing and then using his hands to move past the Detroit offensive line and run right into Stafford.
That’s the type of play the Lions are hoping Washington can make more often now that he’s with the Lions. In a system he believes fits him well, Washington will play both end and tackle – similar to the role Jason Jones once had with Detroit.
And Washington isn’t concerned about having to make the adjustment to the Lions’ attacking defensive style. He said he did it at Georgia and part of the time with the Bears, when he had 27 career tackles with three sacks.
In the past, defensive linemen have explained that Detroit’s style is different enough that it took time to pick up. Washington said his former Bears teammate – and ex-Lions defensive end – Willie Young told him the Lions’ defensive line approach was “tailor-made” for him.
“Their 4-3 scheme is blow-and-go, man,” Washington said. “We play the run all the way to the pass. So that’s what I like about it. It’s straight ahead. It’s all go, no slow down.”
Washington’s athleticism should help him here. He ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at the combine in 2013 and had a broad jump of 10 feet, 8 inches while bench-pressing 225 pounds 36 times. Yes, it’s been four years, but it shows his ability. And he said while he’s 280 pounds now, the Lions want him to trim five pounds to get down around 275 pounds.
That, Washington believes, will keep him heavy enough to face offensive linemen, but lean enough to keep his speed and quickness.
If all that happens, he could be an asset to Detroit’s pass rush, which could lead to fewer plays for opposing defenses – and more chances for Stafford, the guy he once wanted to sack, to do what he’s seen him do over and over again at Georgia and the NFL.
“He’s a good guy, obviously one of the best quarterbacks to ever come through Georgia, you know,” Washington said. “And the arm that he has is still legendary there. And there’s pictures all over the place.
“Obviously, Georgia feels really good about him.”
So do the Lions, a team that felt good enough about Washington to sign him, too