Bear Report recently discussed the expectations of Chicago Bears sixth-round selection, former Georgia defensive end Cornelius Washington. Considered a potential first-day draft pick heading into his senior season, Washington's production never lived up to the hype. As such, he fell to the back end of the draft, where the Bears were more than happy to snatch him up.
Most draft analysts believe Washington is far more talented than his sixth-round status might suggest. During minicamps and OTAs, if Washington plays to his potential, he could make re-signing Israel Idonije less of a priority.
Yet before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let's go to the tape to see if Washington has the skill set to be a consistent contributor for Chicago's defense.
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Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports
When Washington stays low, he's tough to move at the point of attack. His speed is great for his size, which allows him to track ball carriers to the sidelines. He also has good lateral movement and phone-booth quickness, and can make plays in the A and B gaps. His functional strength is evident on tape and he can dominate smaller offensive linemen. He does a good job of extending his arms and keeping separation from blockers.
In passing situations, Washington explodes off the ball. When timed right, his quick first step allows him to turn the corner on offensive tackles. He also has a quality rip move that allows him to get inside leverage, putting pressure in the quarterback's face. Once he gets a step on the blocker, he puts it into high gear and shows outstanding closing speed. And when he hits you, you feel it.
While he has prototypical size for a 4-3 defensive end, Washington's height sometimes works against him. He plays too high at times and does not use a wide base, which causes all kinds of balance issues. It also doesn't allow him to change directions quickly. This is very frustrating to watch on tape, as his athleticism often leads to him beating his man, yet he's unable to break down and redirect to the ball carrier to make plays. This helps to explain his lack of production in college – that, and being miscast in a 3-4.
Consistency in effort is also an issue with Washington, particularly against the run. When fresh, he shows great energy and can be very disruptive. But when he wears down, he might as well be invisible on the field. He's not a high-motor player and when he doesn't beat his man initially on the pass rush, he too often gives up. While he can rip inside and turn the corner, his pass-rush arsenal is limited and he almost never uses a double move.
Despite his strength, Washington can be blocked easily at the point of attack. This is particularly so when he stands too high and loses leverage. His lack of balance then results in him being ridden out of the play. His height also makes him susceptible to cut blocks.
Washington picked up four sacks his redshirt freshman season and started eight games as a sophomore. Yet his ascension was derailed by a DUI in 2011, resulting in a two-game suspension. Despite the time missed, he still finished his junior campaign with five sacks. Expectations were high for Washington heading into 2012, yet he struggled in Georgia's 3-4 system and managed just 22 tackles and half of a sack.
His lackluster senior season caused his draft stock to plummet. His lack of effort at times on the field, his DUI and rumors of him being tough to coach resulted in him falling to the Bears in the sixth round (188th overall).
Yet there's no denying Washington's skill set. At the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, he was an absolute beast. At his position, he had the second fastest 40 time, the most bench-press reps (his 36 were seven more than the closest competitor), the second best vertical jump and third longest broad jump.
And that was as a linebacker.
In Chicago, he'll play defensive end, where the Bears will give him an opportunity to make great use of his top-tier skill set. He does show positional versatility to play some OLB on first and second down, but he doesn't have the quickness or awareness to drop back in coverage.
On film, Washington appears ideally suited as a situational pass rusher in Chicago's 4-3 defense. He struggles with leverage against the run but when he's able to pin his ears back on third downs, he can get after the quarterback and be disruptive. In fact, it will be interesting to see if he's a better fit than Shea McClellin as the club's nickel pass rusher. Washington has as much explosion as McClellin and is literally twice as strong. If he had McClellin's all-day motor, he would have been much more productive in college and likely would not have fallen to the Bears in the sixth.
Washington shows a lot of potential as a third-down rush end and his elite athleticism will make him very valuable on special teams as well. If he keeps his head on straight and accepts the coaching by Chicago's staff, he'll have a long future in the Windy City and could go down as a draft-day steal.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.