Sometimes I feel like I’ve been living alone on Walden Island. While everyone around me seems to give zero respect to Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden (is he the new Jarret Bush?) , I believe he has a talent just waiting to be brought to the forefront. It’s something I noticed all last year, and with a little luck, the results would have made everyone notice. Unfortunately, a few split seconds here and there can make all the difference in the world.
Erik Walden can flat out rush the passer. When Walden is turned loose to pursue the red meat known as NFL quarterbacks, he performs like a hungry lion. On many occasions last season, I observed Walden coming fast and hard and just being a split second short of a sack. He finished with 3 sacks on the year, but if I told you it could have easily been 10, would you feel differently about Erik Walden?
Now I’m not here to declare Walden as a fantastic NFL player – anyone who understands defensive play could see how mightily he struggled last season in the run game. He never seemed to quite know what to do – when to be the “force” player, when to hold the outside edge, when to hold an inside position. The result was not pretty, earning him a ranking as the worst 3-4 outside linebacker against the run from ProFootballFocus.
But those are not physical errors, they are errors in judgement, decision making and possibly in knowing his assignments. These are errors that can be remedied with more practice. Perhaps Walden is already on the way, as this clip from the Packers family night scrimmage might indicate:
This might come as a shock to you, but Walden’s production in the running game was actually very good, as far as some numbers go. Walden finished the year with 41 tackles, good for fifth overall in the NFL among 3-4 outside linebackers and he was tied for 1st in the league in assisted tackle with 11. He finished 19th in stops (more on that later).
Digest that for a second.