The Detroit Lions have made a dedicated investment into their defensive line this offseason and that adds a clear obstacle for returning linemen to conquer. But when a player is also coming off an injury and has a suspension looming, how much is too much to overcome?
This is the eighth installment in a series of articles at Pride of Detroit where we will examine the snap counts for the Lions’ rookies during the 2020 season. You can read the previous seven articles in this series here: Jeff Okudah, D’Andre Swift, Julian Okwara, Jonah Jackson, Logan Stenberg, Quintez Cephus, and John Penisini.
Jashon Cornell, DL: Round 7, Pick 235
A former defensive end who found success as an interior pass rusher at Ohio State, Cornell was expected to play a Da’Shawn Hand-like role on the Lions’ defense in 2020. The team lacked depth on the defensive line and Cornell was brought in to challenge Kevin Strong—among others—for a reserve role.
Cornell’s 2020 snap counts
Cornell practiced one day in camp before tearing his Achilles and causing him to be shut down for the season. He took to social media to confirm the injury and vowed that it would make him work harder to become a better player:
“Never regret anything in life,” Cornell said. “Everything happens for a reason & every season serves it’s [sic] purpose...even your biggest disappointments, failure and downfalls.. Tough times are nothing but a blessing in disguise. With this Achilles injury it will only make me work harder to get back to doing what I love . Belief, confidence, and with trust in the man above there will be no ceiling to what I can accomplish.”
2021 is already off to a rough start for Cornell as he has been suspended by the NFL for the first three games of the season (without pay) for a substance abuse violation (fourth-degree driving while impaired).
“I was informed today by the NFL that I would have to miss the first 3 games of the season,” Cornell tweeted. “Last year after losing a dear friend of mine I made a mistake that was out of my character. I have owned it and worked on learning from it. Since then I have grown as a person and now a better man. With that being said I apologize to the Lions organization and the fans. I have learned from my mishap.”
One hidden benefit for Cornell during his suspension is that it buys him time with the team, as he will not cost them a roster spot during the first three games. If he performs well enough in the preseason, then another defensive tackle on the active roster struggles or is injured during the first three weeks, Cornell could find himself in a good situation.
But there are still a lot of players on the depth chart he will need to beat out. Hand, Strong, Nick Williams, and John Penisini all return, and the team added three more talented defensive tackles in Michael Brockers (via trade), Levi Onwuzurike (second round), and Alim McNeill (third round). It wouldn’t be surprising if Cornell was slotted behind all seven of them on the depth chart at this time.
So, not only does Cornell need to jump at least two players on the depth chart, but he has to convince coaches/front office that he’s worth keeping around after the suspension as well.