A relatively unsung prospect, Georgia DE/OLB Cornelius Washington (6'4" 265 lbs.) started games in all four of years of his stay in Athens, however had very little production to show for it, accruing just 10 sacks in 51 games played, and only 0.5 sacks during his senior season. Consequentially, Washington was somewhat of an afterthought among draft eligible pass rushers, his stock firmly planted in the later rounds. However, after a good week at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and a phenomenal performance at the NFL Combine, Washington's stock has risen exponentially.
At Georgia, Washington played in the Bulldog's 3-4 Defense, primarily as a 3-4 DE. Specifically looking at his senior season, Washington was relegated to playing against interior linemen for much of the season, splitting time with younger players, whom the UGA Coaching Staff wanted to see in action. Watching him play, it is evident that Washington is an edge rusher, and not a lane clogging 5-tech, however, for whatever reason, be it younger players the coaches wanted to see, injuries, or the great depth the Georgia Defense possesses, Washington did not receive enough playing time outside. In my opinion, Washington didn't produce at Georgia because he was miscast in the Georgia 3-4; Washington looks like a 6/7 technique, 4-3 DE.
Participating in the Senior Bowl, Washington was aligned as a 4-3 DE under the direction of Jim Schwartz and the Lions Coaching Staff. Washington had a great week of practice culminating in a good performance in the actual game. At the Combine, Washington amassed some incredible numbers; a 4.55 40 yard dash (faster than Barkevious Mingo's 4.58), a 39 inch vertical (higher than Cordarrelle Patterson's 37 inches), 36 reps on the bench press (with 34 inch arms; more than Jesse Williams' 30 reps), and a 10.67 foot broad jump (just farther than Dion Jordan's 10.17 feet). By themselves combine results don't mean very much, but they do force scouts to go back and review a player's tape, and they can be used to reinforce a player's on-field deficiencies/strengths.
It's doesn't seem like Cornelius Washington is very high on the Panthers' radar, however Washington is an explosive pass rusher with a good deal of untapped potential. Depending on how the Panthers Draft Board is constructed, Washington could be an option in the second round.
This play from the 2012 SEC Championship Game demonstrates Washington's explosion.
Here Washington (denoted by the red triangle) is matched up with future first round pick, Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandjio.
Washington has a great first step; he is the first Bulldog DL to cross the line of scrimmage.
A typical sight of Washington's game, the Georgian strikes first with his hands, and with optimal positioning, which jolts Kouandjio backwards.
Washington possesses quick and violent hands --he practically topples Kouandjio over.
Washington works to shed the blocker as Alabama QB AJ McCarron senses the oncoming pressure, steps back and hurriedly attempts a checkdown pass which falls incomplete.
Here is another play from the SEC Championship Game.
With another quick first step Washington gets off of the snap with his pads lower than his opponent's.
Although we don't have a great view of the situation, Washington strikes first with his hands, and makes his way towards the edge, right in the path of RB TJ Yeldon.
Despite heavy protest from Kouandjio, Washington makes his way into the backfield towards Yeldon.
Washington breaks free from Kouandjio and gets a hand on Yeldon; Yeldon escapes from Washington's grasp, but due to Washington's actions, the play was blown up, and Yeldon was eventually tackled for a TFL.
This play occurs in the Georgia Missouri game.
Here Washington is lined up in a two-point stance as an OLB against the Missouri RT.
On this play Washington reads the Missouri snap count perfectly; his entire body is across the LOS before the RT even finishes his kick step. As Washington improves upon his snap count recognition, his explosion will only grow.
Washington turns the edge as the RT turns to meet him; just one second into the play Washington has already beaten the Tiger RT.
In a last ditch move of desperation, the RT dives to cut Washington's legs, so as to slow him down.
Washington does a good job of avoiding the RT, but the Mizzou QB, aware of Washington, gets off a two yard pass attempt just as Washington reaches him. Washington interrupts the QB's route progression, and forces him to settle on a safety valve.
Turning to the 2011 SEC Championship Game, here is Washington matched up with the LSU RT.
Both Washington and Jarvis Jones get off the ball quickly. The RT is visibly reeling.
Washington engages the RT with good pad level, strikes first, and achieves great hand positioning.
The Bulldog DL disengages from the RT but extends his right arm, demonstrating his impressive length, to keep the RT away from his body.
Washington turns the corner and sacks the LSU QB.
Not a slouch in run defense either, here is another play from the Missouri game.
In a 3rd-down and short situation Washington is ready for the run, engages the RT, and makes his way inwards.
Washington is able to shed the blocker, and with his eyes on the runner, takes a path to intercept Missouri QB Franklin.
Washington makes the initial contact on Franklin, and is rewarded with 0.5 of a TFL.
Aside from his lack of production, Washington does have a couple of flaws to his game. Generally speaking, he's fairly raw. He doesn't have very many pass rushing moves in his arsenal, and the ones he does use are infrequently utilized and unpolished. Additionally, when rushing the passer or engaging blockers, Washington leaves too much of his body open to attack, which allow blockers to stall his momentum temporarily or completely. Both of these problems are very coachable and thus correctable.
Here is an example of Washington opening his body up to a strike on a speed rush.
Washington, here the OLB, will face off against the RT.
Again Washington is the first Bulldog across the LOS.
Washington does a great job of striking first with his hands and keeping the RT away.
As Washington rounds the corner, half of his body is exposed for the RT to deliver a punch or reengage with a block. Here the RT doesn't stop Washington completely, but he slows him down just a hair with a punch.
The Missouri QB gets the pass off just as Washington closes in for a possible sack/strip.
In this instance, and all others similar, Washington should dip his hips and lean his shoulder towards the blocker, minimizing the surface area available for the OL to hit. That way, even if the OL is able to land a well aimed punch on his shoulder pad, Washington won't be halted; worst case scenario, his angle to the QB is slightly altered, and his body is actually straightened by the blow as he reaches the passer.
Here is a more severe example as Washington attempts to rush inwards.
The Georgia Defense opts to run a simple pirate stunt on this play. The outside DL (Washington and Jarvis Jones) feign rushes outside before moving inwards, while the interior DL feign rushes inside before moving outwards.
Washington attempts to 'cross the face' of the RT, who engages the half of his body which is exposed, and achieves good hand positioning.
Washington is 'stood up'; stalled as the RG comes free to help keep him stationary.
Cornelius Washington possesses tangible athleticism and superb explosion as a pass rusher, making him a valuable commodity. With a little tutelage and experience, Washington could develop into a highly productive 4-3 DE. As he develops an arsenal of pass rushing moves, and masters the finer points of the position, Washington will only improve. I'd value him as a second round pick.
As I said above, it doesn't look like the Panthers have any serious interest in Washington, but depending on how the draft falls, he may be a player Carolina considers in the second round.