BOURBONNAIS — At a time when a long list of Bears former defensive ends — Jared Allen, David Bass, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young — have been focused on trying to become linebackers, Cornelius Washington has gone precisely in the opposite direction.
With striking results.
It is still only practice, and he is not always matching up against the No. 1 offensive line yet. But that time could be coming sooner rather than later for Washington, who has had one sack in each of the Bears’ five practices and added a pass batted down in Monday’s session.
Particularly noteworthy, the third-year former sixth-round draft pick is doing it, not from a stand-up linebacker spot but rather from a five-technique/defensive tackle spot.
“I’m glad they thought of me first to move down [inside], that I’m a guy they already have in-house, teach him the position and see,” Washington said.
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Washington is playing his new position with a new Washington.
Washington was the epitome of an athlete at 265 pounds, coming out of Georgia with a 40-inch vertical jump and blinding time in the 40-yard dash. But the Bears’ move away toward a 3-4 defense created a need for power-based down-linemen, particularly after the Ray McDonald move failed, and Washington has muscled up to 285 pounds to fit into the new position and role.
“So far it’s not bothering me or hindering me in any way,” said Washington, whose lone career sack came last season and whose best work was on special teams. “They wanted the weight on, but I felt like it was going to be a problem for me to be this big. But it hasn’t been.”
His gut reaction is to get the weight back to his “normal” levels, but “I’ve been fine doing the running,” he said, laughing, “and I’ve been looking in the mirror trying to figure out where I’m going to lose the weight.”
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Washington’s body fat moved up only slightly (to 13 percent) with the added bulk, and “at this point I need to gain a few more pounds,” Washington said. “When you train in the offseason, you try to get down and come in in the best shape you can. But with the position change, I need to gain a little extra pounds.”
That is going to show up in another area.
Washington has been on the No. 1 kickoff unit (seven special-teams tackles in 2014). In the tradition of special-teams standout Israel Idonije, Washington likes the added intimidation that comes with his new mass.
“The thing about it is,” he said, with a sinister smile, “you’re getting out of the way.”