15

August

Is Tyrone Walker the Packers’ Sixth Man?

Tyrone Walker

Walker has caught on and is making a strong push to crack the Packers roster

For at least the past three or four seasons, we have seen a player come seemingly out of nowhere and forge their way onto the Green Bay Packers roster.  In 2010, the team’s Super Bowl championship season, it was cornerback Sam Shields.  In 2011 it was linebacker Vic So’oto.  Last season, it was linebacker Dezman Moses.  This year, it’s the offensive side of the ball’s turn as wide receiver Tyrone Walker seems to be “that guy” in this year’s training camp.

Just before camp broke last month, our very own Thomas Hobbes penned a profile on Walker and compared him to former Packers receiver Greg Jennings.  The comparison was that Walker is not the fastest or biggest guy on the field, but he runs fluid routes, gets open, and he can hang onto the ball.

Coming from a small school in that of Illinois State, Walker’s road to the NFL was not only hampered by a lack of spotlight, but Thomas notes that some of his teammates (LB Nate Palmer, QB Matt Brown) were bigger priorities for the Packers.  Brown has already been cut and Palmer is buried behind a bevy of guys competing at linebacker.  Meanwhile, Walker has established himself as a player that the coaching staff needs to keep a close eye on.

It’s always a good sign when your All-Pro quarterback is noticing you and asking you if you were open on a previous play during live game action.  Walker had five catches for 41 yards in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.  Just a few days ago, JSOnline’s Tom Silverstein wrote about Walker and how many of the current Packers’ starters are recognizing his talents.

With receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both trying to heal from previous injuries, Walker is making the most of the increased opportunity to practice and see the field.  He is constantly mentioned in practice updates and seems to take steps forward each day in pushing for a roster spot.  Both Nelson and Cobb are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, but the team is also an injury away from becoming thin at a very crucial position.  Walker’s value could skyrocket in a hurry depending on the team’s health at receiver.

Chad Toporski wrote about another receiver who is pushing for a roster spot in that of Jeremy Ross.  Entering training camp, Ross was said to be a top contender for the fifth wide receiver slot as well as the primary kick returner.  While Ross came on last season and showed a lot of potential in the kick return game, he has not been as flashy as a receiver.  He has had several drops in training camp and we all remember his few fumbles when fielding kicks last year.  Chad says, and rightfully so, that if Ross can’t crack the roster as both a returner and a receiver, the Packers likely can’t keep him.  This would further open the door for Walker.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy tends to stick with his guys and because of Ross’ potential in the return game, I think the team will give him every opportunity to keep a roster spot.  Still, he has to earn it and if he does not improve his ball security, Ross could be headed out of Green Bay shortly.  If Ross can stick, Green Bay would need to either add Walker to the active roster, sign him to the practice squad, or cut him after training camp.  While the team has had some success in stashing young talent on the practice squad in the past, Walker has already garnered enough attention that he would probably get scooped up by another team relatively quickly.

Adding Walker could mean keeping six receivers like the Packers did last season.  Part of the reason the team did that was because they were not quite ready to let Donald Driver go.  There was also likely some pressure to keep him another season.  Driver is now retired, any of that pressure is gone, and the team can decide what to do with their last few receiver spots.  Incumbent Jarret Boykin is nearly a lock for the fourth spot with Ross and Walker battling for the fifth and potentially, sixth.  With a hefty competition at the running back and defensive line positions, Green Bay may not have the luxury of keeping six receivers.

During this past week’s No Huddle Radio podcast, we discussed who needs to step up and have a big week.  While Walker didn’t emerge in that conversation, he certainly is a player who needs to continue to play at a high level and impress.  Many of us will be watching how cornerback Davon House rebounds from last week’s dismal performance or whether Mason Crosby can manage to keep a ball in the stadium on his first field goal attempt, but keep an eye on Walker.

In the NBA, the sixth man is the guy who comes off the bench and provides rest for the starters while hopefully maintaining the team’s level of play.  It’s an important enough role that they have a “Sixth Man of the Year” award, and I note that there are only five players on the court at a time in basketball whereas there are 11 in football.  Still, in a pass-heavy offense, having a sixth guy is always something to consider.  Walker may end up the fifth man and win the job straight up, but even if the Packers keep Ross, Walker has already made a very strong case to be involved in the team’s plans as they start the 2013 season.

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Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on "AllGreenBayPackers.com

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9 Responses to “Is Tyrone Walker the Packers’ Sixth Man?”

  1. Stroh says:

    If the Packers can’t keep Ross it’ll be due to ball security issues as a returner. Walker does nothing on ST which really diminishes his value. Ross only has to show ball security on returns and he would make it over Walker even tho Walker is the better reciver. I don’t know that Walker has much upside either. He’d be Cobbs backup as a slot reciever not more. Wouldn’t mind him on the team but no ST and limited offensive role hurts his chances.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

      I’m thinking if he is to crack the 53 in the end, he will get on special teams. Not as a returner, but he would likely contribute something. Boykin did next to nothing last year so to keep Walker, bring him along slowly and create depth isn’t the worst thing.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

      • Stroh says:

        What role is he going to play on ST? As far as I know he doesn’t have a ST role at all. He’s literally too small and too slow to be a ST standout. I don’t mind if they keep him, but even w/o seeing Johnson and Dorsey I would rather bet on their upside over Walkers.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

        • Jason Perone Jason Perone says:

          That doesn’t seem to be McCarthy and Thompson’s method, to go with upside over on-field production. He’s small, but he could get on kick coverage and make some noise. Right now, Ross’s poor showing is forcing this Walker situation on the staff because he’s straight up outplaying Ross. Good to have options with too many question marks around Johnson and Dorsey

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

          • Stroh says:

            Kick coverage? Where you need to be able to tackle? I don’t see it… His lack of any size and speed limits his ST ability big time. He’s smaller and slower than the vast majority of returners.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

        • Chad Toporski Chad Toporski says:

          Walker did play on ST against the Cardinals, according to PFF. I’d have to check the game tape to see where and how he played, though.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Mr. Bacon Mr. Bacon says:

    At this point in training camp, I would tell Walker to play like if he was playing in the regular season; don’t play to not get cut, play as if you were a member of the team.

    At best Walker is going to be the 5th man or 6th. It’s vital he knows the core WR tactics for his team’s playbook; catching, route running and blocking. Barring injury though, he is barely going to get a starting gig this year unless injuries take out someone.

    What will get Walker a job, is his Special Teams. How bad does he want it? Jarrett Bush has always had a job, because of his special teams. Unless Walker wants to be a practice squad member, he will have to showcase his Special Teams skills because most of his field time will come from that aspect this year.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1