Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Donald Washington: Through the Roof

By Josh Looney

March 2, 2011

Despite a number of eye-popping combine performances, Donald Washington can still out-jump everyone

From Oregon State DT Stephen Paea’s record-setting 49 bench press reps to Nevada DE Dontay Moch’s 4.45 40-yard dash, this year’s NFL Combine wasn’t short of remarkable physical performances.

Despite the load of eye-popping results turned in over the last week, one of the event’s most impressive records remains intact. Donald Washington’s 45-inch vertical.

Opting to leave Ohio State as a junior, Washington put on a physical show before NFL scouts in February of 2009. He jumped through the roof that day in addition to posting an 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump. The same distance that Alabama WR Julio Jones jumped to set the football world abuzz Sunday afternoon, Washington’s broad jump was just one inch short of the combine record.

But the 45 inch vertical is the mark that still stands, 2.5 inches better than this year’s best performance turned in by Nevada TE Virgil Green.

To put Washington’s 45-inch vertical into perspective, take a look at the best jumps turned in at the NBA’s Pre-Draft Camp.

According the good folks at, only one hoopster has topped Washington’s mark since the site started tracking results in 1989 – Kenny Gregory’s 45.5-inch jump in 2001. Coming in second, a full 1.5 inches below Washington (43.5, 2004) is NBA slam dunk champion Nate Robinson.

A Combine warrior, Washington also posted an impressive time of 6.84 in the three-cone drill and a 4.49 40-yard dash to round-out one of the Combine’s best overall performances in 2009.

Coming out of Ohio State a year early and regarded as a raw athlete, teams knew that Washington’s skills would need polishing before he’d become a regular contributor at the NFL level. Kansas City took a chance on Washington with the second pick in the fourth round, but would have to wait a little longer to get Washington fully entrenched into the system.

Due to Ohio State’s academic schedule set in quarters, Washington’s class schedule took him into June and NCAA/NFL rules prevented him from reporting for the majority OTAs. Development was delayed.

In his first two NFL seasons, Washington has played in 20 games (two starts) and posted 27 tackles. He also owns 13 career special teams stops.

It’s a bit early to get into spotlighting players who have a critical off-season ahead of them, but Washington certainly fits that mode. He’s served mostly a reserve role since joining the Chiefs, but is still just 24 years old and plays in multiple areas of the defensive backfield where the Chiefs are searching for depth.

Washington switched to safety last season after playing cornerback as a rookie.

The Chiefs placed an emphasis on developing in-house talent last off-season and, specifically, Head Coach Todd Haley keyed on players entering their third NFL season. After all was said and done, Kansas City’s third-year players played a critical role in the Chiefs re-claiming the AFC West title.

If the class of threes hadn’t performed the way they had in 2010, it would have been hard to imagine Kansas City still winning the division.

Here are the third-year players that finished the season on Kansas City’s 53-man active roster.

Running Backs (3): Jackie Battle, Jamaal Charles, Mike Cox

Offensive Linemen (2): Branden Albert, Barry Richardson

Defensive Linemen (2): Glenn Dorsey, Wallace Gilberry

Linebackers (1): Andy Studebaker

Defensive Backs (2): Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers

Specialists (1): Thomas Gafford

“The cupboard wasn’t bare when Todd and I arrived to Kansas City,” GM Scott Pioli said at the scouting combine. “There were some pretty good football players there.”

Both Haley and Pioli referenced three years as the barometer for evaluating a draft class. Next year brings a new group of threes that the Chiefs will count on for further development. In addition to Washington, that list includes players like Tyson Jackson, Jovan Belcher and Ryan Succop.

While Washington continues to work on his pro game, his record vertical lasts another year. It’s a jump that may stand for quite some time.

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