Detroit Lions rookie running back Dwayne Washington is making a case for inclusion in the 53-man roster with his play in the preseason.
Detroit Lions rookie running back Dwayne Washington is trying to prove that he deserves a spot on the Lions’ 53-man roster this season, and has impressed so far in the preseason. Despite being drafted in the seventh round of this year’s draft and having to work his way up a busy depth chart, he has stood out among the reserves and now is in a position to make a run at the fourth running back spot.
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said that Washington is “helping himself” and “he’s certainly trending in the right direction” after Thursday’s preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Washington’s biggest strength is his athleticism. He has good size at 6’1″, 223, and ran a 4.44 40-yard dash on his pro day while posting a 37-inch vertical. He has an outstanding RAS of 9.64, scoring above the league average in every measured category. Washington is also a versatile athlete. He played wide receiver in high school but made the transition to running back after redshirting his freshman year at the University of Washington. He also plays special teams, and his combination of size and speed make him an ideal gunner.
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Washington caught a touchdown pass during the Lions’ mock game earlier in camp, but he really started making waves after a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He only had a few looks on offense during that game, but made the most of them, carrying twice for 12 yards and making a nice catch and run for 15 yards.
He had more opportunities in the second preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Washington saw his first action in the second quarter with the second-team offense, ahead of Stevan Ridley and George Winn, his primary competition for the Lions’ fourth running back spot. He ended the game with six carries for 22 yards, including a five-yard touchdown run at the end of the game. Only Theo Riddick had more carries among Lions backs in the game (seven). The Lions also tried to run a screen to him in the third quarter, but the pressure got to quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who threw the ball away.
Throughout the preseason Washington has shown some ability to make defenders miss in the open field and he consistently fights for extra yardage. His ability to change direction quickly is probably his greatest asset as a runner. Detroit Lions color analyst Chris Spielman lauded Washington’s ability to “stick his foot in the ground” and at his size his agility allows him to hit the hole quickly and with power, something the other reserve backs on the Lions’ roster have not done.
As well as he has played as a runner, Washington will need to impress on special teams if he is going to make this roster. Aside from his kick return touchdown, he returned another kick for 28 yards against Cincinnati.
The Lions deployed him at gunner as well, and in the third quarter on a Devon Bell punt, he was the first man downfield, downing the ball inside the five-yard line. He also saw some action as an upback on kickoff returns and on the first-team kickoff coverage unit.The fact that he is seeing
The fact that he is seeing first-half action on both offense and special teams ahead of some of the other players he is directly competing against seems to indicate that Washington has moved up the depth chart, or has at least done enough in practice to earn a closer look from the Lions coaching staff.
There are concerns with Washington that have followed him from college, including dropped passes and fumbles (Pride of Detroit has an excellent profile on Washington from after the draft which details those issues and talks about his college career while breaking down some of his game tape). If he can continue to improve his ball control and make the most of his athleticism, he has a chance to make this roster.