John Cominsky: What the Lions are getting in their new DE

There is a new defensive lineman in Detroit with the Lions claiming John Cominsky off waivers from the Atlanta Falcons on Tuesday. It’s a calculated acquisition to find a gem that just didn’t fit with the changes in Atlanta. Can he fit in Detroit?

Cominsky was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NFL draft after an impressive finish to his career at Charleston, a D-II school in West Virginia. A former option QB in high school in Northeast Ohio, Cominsky really bulked up and emerged as a viable NFL prospect with a stellar senior season that saw him bag 16.5 TFLs, three sacks and two forced fumbles for the Golden Eagles.

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Drafted by the Falcons as a 285-pound end for their 3-4 defense, Cominsky didn’t have an easy positional fit. While he’s a very impressive athlete in terms of quickness and movement skills for his size, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound speed-based defensive end is a tough transition from D-II to the NFL. He tested significantly better at the 2019 combine than he ever translated to the field for the Falcons.

The prior Falcons regime, headed by GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn, viewed him as a player who could start at base DE in the 4-3 scheme and kick inside on pass-rush downs. He showed some progress after not playing much as a rookie.

Cominsky played quite a bit more in 2020 and demonstrated some interior pass-rushing ability. His length and quick feet were better served inside, though he was almost exclusively a pass-rush specialist at DT.

The Falcons changed regimes and schemes for 2021, and the move did not portend well for Cominsky. He wasn’t stout enough as a 3-4 DE or lithe or savvy enough to play as an OLB in the odd-man front. As a result, he barely played. That greatly contributed to his release from Atlanta.


Here’s the skinny from Falcons Wire editor Matt Urben:

Cominsky was drafted by previous Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. While playing for former head coach Dan Quinn — who ran more of an attacking 4-3 scheme — Cominsky developed into a solid rotational defensive end who could also slide inside on pass-rushing downs. In 2020, Cominsky played 44 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and racked up 21 pressures, however, the Falcons would fire both Quinn and Dimitroff after an 0-5 start that year. Atlanta hired Dean Pees as DC in 2021, but Comsinky just wasn’t a great fit in that 3-4 base defense.
The former Charleston standout played in just four games last season.

While his release wasn’t a total surprise, I completely understand why the Lions claimed him. Cominsky’s got a good motor and fits Detroit’s scrappy mentality. And more importantly, he’s a much better fit in Aaron Glenn’s defense where he can provide quality reps at both DE and DT.

I interviewed Cominsky at the 2019 Senior Bowl and got a chance to watch quite a bit of his Charleston tape after it became clear the Matt Patricia-era Lions had considerable interest in Cominsky. Here are my abridged notes from prior to the 2019 NFL draft on Cominsky:

  • Smart vs. the run, good tackling power

  • Very quick feet and good balance for a taller guy

  • Lacks power, especially in the lower body

  • No real sense of how to counter blocking or attack as a pass rusher on the outside

  • Bad tendency to get straight up after engagement with blocker

One notable thing about Cominsky in Atlanta: he played at 275 pounds, down from his top college weight. For an interior player in Detroit’s new-look 4-man front, that’s very light. He projects to compete with Detroit’s recent second-round picks, Levi Onwuzurike (2021) and Josh Paschal (2022) for reps as a base end who can also play inside. Romeo Okwara and Michael Brockers are veterans in that role, too. If Cominsky bulks back up and adds functional lower-body strength, he could find a role playing more as a straight 3-tech DT in Detroit. He did not show that sort of ability in Atlanta, however.

It will take more pass-rushing oomph from Cominsky to crack the Lions lineup, but he does have developmental potential even after three NFL seasons. At minimum, he’s got a better chance to stick around than the man he replaced on the 90-man roster, kicker Aldrick Rosas.