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Why Cornelius Washington is the Lions’ breakout player this season

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Detroit was the perfect landing spot for Washington. Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Before signing with the Lions in the offseason, defensive tackle Cornelius Washington played his first four seasons with the Bears. He's a big guy at 6'4 and almost 300 pounds, but like a lot of Bears players, he wasn't really as big as you would normally see with a 3-4 defensive lineman. He did still make plays last season even though it didn't appear that he was a good fit for that defense. You could just see that the few opportunities he had in the gap as an upfield penetrator, he was more suited for that than being head up on an offensive lineman and two-gapping.

Detroit's scheme is a much better fit for Washington. I think he will thrive in it. He will have a lot more opportunities to rush the passer for the Lions as well. I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up being the most impactful offseason addition for the Lions this year.

Washington should be able to play multiple positions in Detroit's 3-4 scheme, but I'm most excited to see him as a left defensive end on early downs. After having to hold the point on double teams and two-gapping guards, jacking up tight ends one-on-one should be a piece of cake for him.

And let’s not forget that Ziggy Ansah should be lining up opposite of him. Ansah is always going to attract a lot of attention. That means Washington should see a lot of one-on-one opportunities at defensive end as well.

I actually thought that Washington had a good shot to beat out Kerry Hyder to start at left defensive end, but since Hyder went down with a torn Achilles in the Lions' first preseason game. That means Washington is the big favorite to start now and counted on even more to help provide a pass rush on all three downs. It wasn't the best thing for the team, of course, but for Washington, Hyder's injury should provide him with an opportunity to be super productive this season. If he can stay healthy, Washington may even be able to push for double-digit sacks this year.

The Bears had a ton of defensive linemen, so they could afford to let Washington walk. He will be just what the doctor ordered for the Lions this season. Playing as part of a defense that is more of a fit for his particular talents along with a starting role made Cornelius Washington an easy choice for the Lions' breakout player of 2017.