Cornelius Washington was signed by the Detroit Lions this offseason with the understanding he would be given an opportunity to compete for the starting defensive end spot opposite Ziggy Ansah.
Washington expected that it would come down to him or Kerry Hyder Jr. for the starting spot based off who had the better training camp and preseason.
With Washington missing most of the last two weeks with an ankle injury, it was Hyder receiving most of the first-team reps.
Washington was finally a full participant at practice Wednesday, which so happened to be the first full practice the Lions had since Hyder was lost for the season with an Achilles injury.
"Well, of course I don't like how this is going down," Washington said after practice Wednesday. "I was expecting to have to battle with Kerry for the spot. But we still have some young guys coming up. Alex (Barrett) is playing very well. So, it's not going to be easy by a long shot.
"It's not the way I wanted it to happen, but it seems like that's the way it's going to go."
Washington signed with Detroit because he thought Teryl Austin's defense was a fit for his skill set. He spent his first four seasons in Chicago.
Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been able to maximize players' potential upfront over the past few years years as the Lions have seen a pass rusher emerge out of almost out of nowhere – George Johnson, Devin Taylor and Hyder – in each of the last three seasons. Could Washington emerge in similar fashion this year?
"Kris (Kocurek) has us rolling and throwing off, that's the term we like to use, 'throw off, throw off, throw off,'" Washington said.
"I'm good at that. I'm good at getting off the ball. This scheme, that's basically all you have to do, get off the ball, make sure you're where you're supposed to be and make the plays you're supposed to make."
He's a terrific athlete at the position. He ran the 40 in 4.55 at the Combine back in 2013, and also had 36 reps on the bench and a 39-inch vertical.
In Detroit, he's being asked to fire off the ball and attack, which seems to fit his athletic traits.
"He's a little bit different body type because he's got a lot of power and he's a power rusher," head coach Jim Caldwell said of Washington.
"He's got all the intangibles you're looking for in terms of hustle and drive and tenacity and all those kinds of things, but he's going to be able to set an edge for you, that's for certain."
Washington came to Detroit knowing he'd have an opportunity to compete to start. With Hyder's season now over, Washington seems to have the inside track to start opposite Ansah, as long as he can remain healthy and produce the next three weeks.
GOLLADAY WITH FIRST TEAM
For most of training camp, the Lions have allowed rookie receiver Kenny Golladay to get his feet wet on the second-team offense.
Wednesday, Golladay was paired with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. in three-receiver sets with the first-team offense. For most of camp, it had been TJ Jones in that role.
View photos from the penultimate Detroit Lions 2017 training camp practice.
Golladay had two touchdown catches in Sunday's preseason opener in Indianapolis, and has been impressive all throughout camp. He's earned those reps, and there could be more on the horizon if he continues to be a playmaker.
"He's one of those guys that we're just trying to make certain that we give him a bit of experience in a little bit of everything to kind of see where he fits," Caldwell said of the move.
"We have an idea, but you really don't know until you give him a chance to really delve into one spot or the other. So, we're trying to cross train him a little bit, but he has the speed and has the length and those kinds of things you look for, for good matchups on the outside."
The Lions encourage their receivers to learn every receiver spot, so Golladay lined up all over the field on Wednesday.
"It's helpful," Caldwell said. "Often times you may find a guy that only fits a particular role, but the more flexible you are, the better. And particularly in our system, because we line up guys in all different types of spots.
"We'd love to be able to move guys around, it makes them a little bit tougher to double cover. Makes them a little bit tougher to plan on in terms of where they're going to be. Gives us a lot more flexibility that way."
SPEAKING HIS MIND
Ameer Abdullah has always spoken out on social issues when given the opportunity.
"I don't really pick and choose specific moments," he said Wednesday. "It's more just if something hits me, I feel like I need to get it off my chest, I'm not necessarily going to hold my tongue."
Abdullah was asked about the recent deadly violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his reaction to it.
"What's most disheartening is just people still try to make excuses for certain behaviors," Abdullah said. "Especially people of influence still making excuses for specifically what happened in Virginia.
"So, for me, that's the most disheartening thing. We know what the issue is. It's been right out before us. Just need more people on board that won't make excuses, but will make change."
Abdullah was then asked if he was specifically talking about President Trump and the controversy surrounding his public comments after the violence.
"Him and his followers," he said.
Caldwell has always encouraged his players to speak their minds.
"My thing is, a lot of people talk about protest and those kinds of issues," he said. "They can do something about it in our communities. They go out and they work within their foundations, they can have an impact without necessarily what you'd consider to be a protest.
"You guys can talk about guys sitting down on the sideline and all that. What does that really do? And I think our guys are a little bit more concerned about action. But they're men too.
"I mean they have their own opinions. I expressed to them, 'Look at the world. Have your own comments.'"
As for the violence in Virginia last week, Caldwell too had his own opinions about it.
"I think the world can take a lot from what we do in sports," he said. "It's a highly diverse community. Guys get along. They're from all walks of life. But there's no place in this game for bigotry and hatred.
"And I think that's same way as society, but it's there. And it's something that I think we all have to speak out against and not tolerate."
Players still on PUP: DE Ziggy Ansah, T Taylor Decker and T Corey Robinson
Players still on NFI: P Sam Martin
Not practicing Wednesday: TE Eric Ebron, TE Tim Wright, TE Khari Lee, TE Cole Wick, G Laken Tomlinson, T Cornelius Lucas and DT Bruce Gaston