Dwayne Washington didn't light up the stat sheet in Friday night's preseason loss to the New England Patriots, but he did show the kind of versatility and athletic traits that the Lions have been high on ever since they drafted him in the seventh round of last year's NFL Draft.
Washington (6-2, 226) showed off his power when he barreled through defenders at the goal line to muscle his way into the end zone on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Earlier, he took a short pass from Matthew Stafford, made a defender miss in open space, and then turned on the jets with that 4.44 speed he possesses to beat the rest of the Patriots' defense to the end zone for an 18-yard score.
He rushed the ball seven times for just 15 yards (2.1 average), but caught a couple more passes for 26 yards and with two total touchdowns.
"He's a dog," running back Ameer Abdullah said of Washington. "I mean, I've said it before. I feel like he's athletically a very good player. He's a guy who hasn't played running back that long.
"He went to (the University of) Washington to play receiver and then later in his career he started playing running back and he's still learning. He's molding into the player he's becoming, the player you all saw tonight."
It's a big leap from college to the NFL, and that gap is even greater, as Abdullah stated, for players who switch positions in college or don't have a singular focus for four years, like Washington. We saw the same thing with Theo Riddick when he first came into the league. He was a receiver at Notre Dame before switching to running back. He was still learning how to be a runner when he first got to Detroit. The same goes for Washington.
Washington has all the physical tools the Lions could ever want in a back. He's big and he's fast. He can run over a defender or run right past them.
"I think he's getting a little bit better because we've always seen that when he came out of college, we saw that he had the power and speed and the elusiveness and the ability to break tackles and those kinds of things he did from time to time," head coach Jim Caldwell said after Friday's game.
"He did it a little bit more consistently today. He ran behind his pads really well. He had some good, tough yardage. And I think he just continues to get better and better and better. So, he's headed in the right direction."
Being more of an instinctive runner and continuing to evolve in pass protection were two big areas Washington needed to improve after getting his feet wet (90 rushes) as a rookie.
He looks more comfortable in both aspects in his second season, and appears to have a pretty firm grip on the fourth running back spot behind Abdullah, Riddick and Zach Zenner.