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There aren’t many like him, at least according to Jaguars defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell.
No, first-overall selection and Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker is unique, and though he has many talents that can be used in Jacksonville’s defense, his primary role this season is what should allow many to see his ceiling, unlocking the potential he showed as a college football player at Georgia.
“Right now his skillset is getting after the quarterback. We are going to allow him to do that. The way that he does it, that possibly could change,” Caldwell said earlier this month when asked about the No. 1 overall pick. “But right now we are trying to get him comfortable and when he’s out there and it’s not [too much thinking] … We just want him to go out there and play. Once he is playing, we will be able to adjust what we do with him.”
The Jaguars selected Walker with the sole purpose of providing the team with yet another versatile athlete at outside linebacker, similar to selecting Josh Allen at No. 7 overall in 2019. Walker will learn this season what to do and how to do it as a pass-rusher in the NFL, and the team certainly feels strongly that he will live up to the expectation.
To the team, it’s not necessarily pigeon holing him, either. It is a means to upgrade a position of need for the Jacksonville front seven, one that has had moments of brilliance, such was the case last season against the Buffalo Bills and the Indianapolis Colts (Week 18) last year. But they’ve also had plenty of weak games, as seen by the team’s woeful sack total – 32 – in 2021.
At Georgia, Walker came away from his three years with the Bulldogs with just 9.5 sacks, including six this past season. That led many to believe that the Jaguars “reached” to select him, a player that never showed the production that warranted being selected first-overall.
The Jaguars themselves feel, though, that Walker was never given the opportunity to get that production while at Georgia, instead a victim of the program’s defensive scheme.
That isn’t just what the team thinks, though, it’s also what Walker looks like on the gridiron. Though it’s just been underwear practices up to this point between rookie minicamp, organized team activities and “mandatory” minicamp (made mandatory to only rookie and a select few veterans this year), Walker has looked the part, as an athlete.
At 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, Walker is one of the largest humans on the Jaguars’ roster. He posted historical numbers at the combine for a man his size, including a 40-yard dash time of 4.51 seconds and a broad jump of 10-feet-3-inches and a three-cone time of 6.89 seconds. Simply put, he’s unique and it’s something that Caldwell sees in him.
“You think about the size – his height, his weight, his speed – it’s like a unicorn,” Caldwell said. “He is unique. He plays that way and you see it on tape. You see the burst, you see the speed, you see the moves he has. We are excited about him and I think he will be ready to roll.”
Given Walker’s size and length, 35.5-inch arms and an 84.25-inch wingspan, Caldwell’s description of the rookie outside linebacker probably isn’t far off. The team understands he can play other positions, but for them, it just doesn’t make sense to do that right now.
“We are going to try to mold him and let him take off and go.”
Ultimately, the team is using this time to mold the defense around its players, not the other way around, and Walker is certainly a centerpiece of all of that.