There’s been lots of opinions on what will happen with the Detroit Lions defensive line this year in terms of depth, but one name that has not been referenced much is Jashon Cornell.
Cornell is easy for some to forget given he has struggled to stay healthy early in his career, but he wants to make an impact now, and it seems all systems are go as it relates to him being able to do that for 2022.
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Speaking to the media after practice on Wednesday, June 8, Cornell discussed where he is at after missing the 2021 season. As he said, it was tough to battle back from injury, but he might feel even better now than prior to the injury playing out.
“I think that was really tough for me just coming back from the injury, but now I’m in a good space now where I feel like I’m back to my old self. I actually kind of feel better than my old self now so it’s been good,” Cornell said. “I’ve been in a good situation being here and having the training staff be able to get me back to where I’m at.”
Specifically, Cornell admitted to missing the camaraderie between teammates on the field and in the building while he was gone, which made him feel distant at times during the process of recovery.
“I think the toughest part was not not being around the guys. I feel like when you when you get injured in the league, you have your own space to yourself and you’re on your own kind of,” he said. “You got your training staff, but every time you guys go out to practice you’re in the training room or when you’re in there trying to get back strong you see guys coming in from practice and I feel like that’s the hardest part with the injury. I couldn’t walk for four months. Four months I was in a boot, on a scooter and then just getting back to being able to walk was the hardest part. Then, coming back out here to play, this is just another obstacle.”
With the injury in the rear-view mirror, Cornell is setting his sights on earning a role within a stacked defense. The expectation for him is he can get that done with health and a bigger opportunity.
If he feels better than he did before, that would indeed be notable for the Lions.
Cornell: Lions Now ‘Expect’ to Get After Quarterback
As he’s been out, the Lions have wasted little time renovating their defensive line unit. At this point, they are one of the deeper, younger groups in the league and that could serve them well on the field. As Cornell said, the expectation now is to get after it up front on defense.
“I feel like our expectation now is just be able to get to the quarterback. I feel like Alim (McNeill), Aiden (Hutchinson), Josh (Paschal) and all those new guys, you can see it out there on the field now,” he said. “It’s like, we’re getting to the quarterback and we’re getting it. This new defense is helping us be with the beat of players that we’re able to get off the ball and not hold up blocks and stuff and be the players that we all came to be in NFL and attack the quarterback and get to the quarterback.”
Detroit has more depth than ever up front, and is looking to take a step up from 2021 when the line collected only 30 sacks. Adding more players to the mix only figures to be a help, and Cornell sees that as the case given what he has watched already early on.
Cornell’s Career Stats & Highlights
Coming into the league, injury prevented Cornell from taking a bigger step in 2020. That was unfortunate, because Cornell was an under-the-radar talent entering the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Cornell was one of the most productive interior defensive players in college football. Interestingly, his 90.2 rating compared favorably with Derrick Brown, a player from the 2020 draft class the Lions were also
potentially considering selecting higher.
Cornell, of course, slipped to Detroit with a late pick considering he wasn’t high on the depth chart while playing with the Ohio State Buckeyes until his solid senior season. Statistically, in college, he put up solid numbers with 62 tackles and 7 sacks. Obviously, these numbers show there is pro potential for the player once he takes the next step with health.
When he joined the Lions, Cornell’s main advantage was joining a defensive line that was wide-open and saw plenty of change. Now, he will have to scrap for his role, but the team’s new scheme could fit him well given his ability to play inside out.
With health not a concern, it will be interesting to see how he does as it relates to his goals for 2022.