Lions release Ridley, boost Washington's chance to make team
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Dwayne Washington moved a step closer to earning a job with the Detroit Lions on Thursday.
The seventh-round pick, who leads the team in rushing and has returned a kickoff for a touchdown this preseason, still has a shot to make the team unlike Stevan Ridley.
Detroit cut Ridley, who has run for 2,907 yards over five seasons, to take one player out of the mix in its crowded backfield.
That move seemed to improve Washington's chances.
"Yeah, I guess you could say that," he acknowledged.
Detroit signed Ridley in April, hoping he would bolster depth in the backfield after releasing Joique Bell.
"Now, we're down to one big back, which is me," the 6-foot-2, 226-pound Washington said.
Detroit's top two running backs are Ameer Abdullah and Theo Ridley. Zach Zenner, an undrafted rookie last year, appears to be in position to earn a spot on the roster again.
Washington may have played his way into a role as the team's fourth running back, gaining 4.3 yards per carry, catching a pass for 15 yards, running for a 2-point conversion and returning a kick 96 yards for a score.
"When the guy gets the ball, he does impressive things," Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. "That's a good trait to have."
Going into training camp, it looked as if Ridley might have an opportunity to revive his career with the Lions, whose general manager, Bob Quinn, saw up close what he did four years ago with the New England Patriots.
Ridley had 1,263 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns in 2012 in New England. Last season, though, he ran for just 90 yards last season, started one game and played in eight more for the New York Jets.
"He's still got obviously some juice left and he's a good player," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "It was just in our situation, we did what we think is best."
Detroit's third preseason game Friday night at Baltimore will give a lot of players a chance to improve their position on the depth chart.
"This one feels a little more intense because for some of us, it might be the last game we play," said tight end Adam Fuehne, an undrafted rookie from Southern Illinois.
Injuries have opened up opportunities for the team's tight ends because Eric Ebron is recovering from a lower right leg injury, which has kept him out for nearly three weeks, and Brandon Pettigrew hasn't been cleared to practice after having knee surgery late last season.
Undrafted rookie Cole Wick and journeyman Matthew Mulligan both have had an opportunity to show what they can do without the team's tight ends available to take reps.
The Lions signed Jeremy Kerley to help them on offense and special teams, but the signing of Anquan Boldin moved him down a peg among the receivers. And the emergence of Washington as a possible option as a returner also may make him expendable when cuts are made over the next two weeks.
Kerley has caught six passes, tying a team high, for 44 yards. He has returned two punts for 16 yards and two kicks for 48 yards this preseason.
Against the Ravens, the former New York Jet hopes to take advantage of a chance to shine and stick with the team.
"Every time the lights are turned on, it's an important game for me," Kerley said.