Lions' Jim Caldwell: Ndamukong Suh, Jim Washburn 'good combination'

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell's history with new Miami Dolphins assistant Jim Washburn goes back to the 1980s. Caldwell was an assistant coach at Penn State and Washburn was the same at South Carolina.

Caldwell told a story Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings of how he first battled with Washburn in recruiting over fullback Sam Gash, who chose Penn State and went on to have a solid college and pro career. They also coached against each other in the NFL and were on the same team with the Lions the past two seasons.

Last week, Washburn was hired to be Miami's pass-rush specialist and senior defensive assistant coach. According to Caldwell, the Dolphins made a strong addition to their staff.

"Jim is an outstanding coach. I love the guy," Caldwell said. "He's an old-school coach that has a great football knowledge and background. He and I go way back. ... He certainly was able to put out just some unbelievable players who did a tremendous job and all play the same way. They play with a great fervor, play with great intensity and understand the game and know it well. He's one of the fine teachers in the game."

A big factor in Washburn's hire was reuniting him with Dolphins star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The team paid Suh $114 million last year in free agency, but he wasn't the same consistently dominant force in his first season with the Dolphins that he was in Detroit.

Washburn coached Suh for two seasons with the Lions in 2013 and 2014. Suh made the Pro Bowl both seasons but had that streak broken last year with the Dolphins.

It will be important for Washburn to once again get the best out of Suh with the Dolphins. That, in turn, will help their overall defense, which was ranked 25th in the NFL last season.

"They have a good understanding of one another," Caldwell explained of Washburn and Suh. "They are both tough, hard-nosed people and they work well together. From a scheme standpoint, from a personal standpoint, it's a pretty good combination."