Ten years ago, the Detroit Lions had the oldest roster in the NFL, with the average player age on the team being 27.15 years old. Currently, the Lions feature one of the youngest rosters in the NFL, with only six rostered players 28 years or older and just one player over the age of 29—Hello,
Michael Mr. Brockers.
With that youth comes inexperience, but also an opportunity for growth.
“Most guys can continue to get better and grow throughout the years,” coach Dan Campbell told the media during minicamp, “but I think it’s hard to make that big of a jump after year two. That year one to year two is when you make the biggest jump.”
The Lions currently have 23 players on their 90-man roster who are technically entering year two of their NFL careers, along with another handful of third-year players who have yet to play a full season's worth of games due to injuries, including Jeff Okudah (10 games played), Logan Stenberg (9), and Jashon Cornell (1).
So, that brings us to our question of the day:
Which Lions player is set up to have a breakout season?
To answer this question, I’m going to cheat a bit and defer my answer to defensive line coach Todd Wash.
Wash’s choice: Jashon Cornell
Prior to entering the NFL, Cornell had never missed a game due to injury. But since being drafted, Cornell has dealt with a suspension and two lengthy injuries, including an Achilles tear in the very beginning of his rookie year, and has only played in one NFL game as a result.
Despite a difficult last two seasons, Cornell has consistently found himself in the two-deep rotation with this coaching staff. Now fully healthy, he put together a nice set of practices during OTAs and minicamp this spring. When defensive line coach Todd Wash was asked which player had the best chance to have a Charles Harris-like breakout season, the Lions coach landed on Cornell.
“You know, I think upfront, Jashon (Cornell) flashed this spring but right now we’re still in gym class,” Wash said during OTAs. “You know what I mean? We’re not running the football and that’s the area we have got to get better in once we start training camp. But Jashon is a guy that is under the radar right now. I thought he had a really good spring and I look forward to seeing what he can do, being healthy again.”
Cornell has battled through the physical and mental obstacles that come with a long-term injury and is ready to prove he can be productive in the NFL.
“I think the biggest thing for me is I want to show people my ability,” Cornell said. “I feel like I’ve been down and out since I got in the league and then I feel like this is an opportunity for me to actually show who I am as a player. I did all the stuff at Ohio State and now, it’s what people are expecting. ‘What is he going to do now since the injury?’ So it’s an opportunity for me to showcase the ability that I have as a pass rusher, as a run stopper in the NFL.”
At Ohio State, Cornell played a big defensive end role early in his career before shifting inside to the three-technique as a senior, with that success leading to him being drafted. This season, the Lions’ shift in defensive philosophy has Cornell at the three-technique once again, a move that is playing to his strengths.
“Oh, I love it. I love this new philosophy,” Cornell continued. “I love it a lot. I think it really showcases every player’s ability. I think they’re putting every player in the position to win. I feel like this is the opportunity for a lot of guys to really showcase who they are because our coaching staff is making this switch to put every specific player in the position they need to be to win. And I feel like this is a great opportunity for a lot of guys to go out there and just play ball, and that’s what we want to do.”
Ok, your turn. Do you believe Cornell is in the best spot to breakout or did you have another player in mind? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.