There might not be another player on the Detroit Lions roster who has helped his stock more than rookie Dwayne Washington. Not only did he leapfrog fellow running backs Stevan Ridley, who was cut from the team Thursday morning, and George Winn in the preseason carry order, he has also made quite the impression on head coach Jim Caldwell and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
“I’ve been impressed with some of the things he’s done,” said Cooter. “You know, when the guy gets the ball he does impressive things. That’s a good trait to have.”
At the same time, the team’s seventh-round pick, oddly enough out of the University of Washington, accomplished a majority of his big plays coming late in games against inferior talent.
“We’re still evaluating him,” Cooter saide. “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.”
Cooter’s last statement could imply that Washington will see a little more action this week in the dress rehearsal against the Baltimore Ravens. In order for GM Bob Quinn to really have a good barometer for where Washington stands, he will need a larger sample size while also facing legit NFL talent. The new general manager will have to cut down from 90 to 75 players after the game. Washington is not expected to be in the first round of cuts, but another running back possibly could be if he shows well enough.
The Dwayne Washington show continues for the Lions… pic.twitter.com/GIwBFs3pSn
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Washington put his name on the map after a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Week 1 of the preseason. He then followed it up with a rushing touchdown in the late stages against the Cincinnati Bengals. No matter where Washington has been on the field, he has found a way to pop off screen.
“I think he does have talent, which you can see,” said head coach Caldwell. “Certainly the kickoff return kind of gave you a really good idea of what he could do. 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, he can make you miss.”
After accumulating 4.3 yards per carry through two weeks, he is averaging almost a full yard and a half more than any other running back on the roster. Ridley is the next closest back at 3.0 ypc, followed by Theo Riddick at 2.9.
The one negative of his game — which has not yet manifested in the preseason — has been his fumbling woes. There have been a couple training camp practices where he has fumbled on multiple occasions. In college, Washington coughed up the ball 3.7% of all his carries- 1.3% more than the fumble-prone Ameer Abdullah during his days at Nebraska. That is a trend that will need to change in a hurry in order for him to be trusted carrying the ball on a more consistent basis.
Despite leading the team with a total of 34-rushing yards, Washington may have to excel on special teams to secure a spot on the roster. According to his head coach, he has all the tools necessary to do just that.
“He’s got ability. He’s got ability to contribute on all phases, those four phases, which in itself is quite a feat,” said Caldwell.
The sky is the limit for the 225-pound, sub 4.5-forty monster. More repetitions could equal more success, or perhaps just the opposite, but either way, he will continue to develop day by day. “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.” -Jim Caldwell