For a guy who fancies himself a ‘living legend’ on Twitter, DeMarcus Walker‘s NFL career has been far short of epic, especially when you add in the fact that he was a 2017 second-round pick of the Denver Broncos. Walker has been an unquestionable disappointment thus far.
In two seasons with the club, Walker’s been a healthy scratch in 19 out of 32 possible games. We’ll get into the ‘why’ of that impotence shortly.
With the Broncos investing another premium draft pick in a similar D-line ‘tweener’ in Dre’Mont Jones last month, questions have arisen as to how (if) Walker fits in with Vic Fangio. Walker’s fate will be decided by Fangio, but the coach’s opinion will ultimately be determined by the player’s effort and performance during OTAs, training camp and preseason action.
Following the fourth practice of OTAs, Fangio spoke about how Walker has performed and adapted to the new coaching staff and scheme.
“I’m not sure yet, but I do think that he’s working extremely hard,” Fangio said on Monday. “I think he’s making progress and ultimately with D-Line and O-Line you have to have the pads on to see. I like where he’s at. I like where he’s at emotionally too. I think he’s in a good spot emotionally. He’s probably matured in the last couple of years and were going to see what he has or doesn’t have here come training camp.”
Reading between the lines, it sounds like Fangio is giving Walker an opportunity to start from square one with him. Fangio garnered headlines immediately following his hire when he revealed his reluctance to go back and watch Broncos film on any player — unless it was a player the team had to make a decision on in the offseason.
Fangio didn’t want to create any preconceived notions and wanted to give each player as fair an opportunity as possible to start anew in his scheme. Walker could be a huge beneficiary of that philosophy, if indeed the former Florida State standout has gotten his head right.
There have murmurings that Walker’s had a sense of entitlement as a pro and has lacked maturity, which hasn’t jibed well with D-Line Coach Bill Kollar. But if Walker’s first two years in the league weren’t enough cause for him to eat some humble pie and kind of re-center his mindset, maybe nothing will.
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Fangio alluded to that when he referred to Walker’s “emotional” status, saying that he’s in a good place there. That should be encouraging to fans who want the Broncos to get a return on their second-round investment. Walker’s work ethic has also been questioned in the past, which makes Fangio’s remark all the more positive.
Walker wasn’t a great fit to begin with in the 3-4 scheme the Broncos ran under former DC Joe Woods. Drafted at around 280 pounds, Walker was too small to hold up as a true 5-tech defensive end and too big and heavy to hang out in space as a stand-up outside linebacker.
However, with Fangio bringing his 4-3 under scheme with him to Denver, Walker projects as a much better fit — but it’s still not perfect. Walker can overcome that with the correct mindset and hard work.
The kid hasn’t always shown the best motor but where he lacks in that department he’s made up for it with a knack for being around the ball and making plays. Walker’s detractors will argue the point, but go watch his college tape at FSU and the few games he’s appeared in as a Bronco.
He’s got a nose for the ball and heading into year three, if he makes the 53-man roster — which is no sure thing — he could help the Broncos push the pocket as an interior pass rusher on obvious passing downs. Walker’s best fit would be in a traditional 4-3 system where he could line up as the weakside defensive end and rush the passer.
He’ll have to figure out a way to make himself valuable and indispensable to Fangio. The ol’ coach is never going to B.S. the media and fans at the podium, like some of his predecessors and colleagues around the league. What you see is what you get with Fangio, and if he chooses to answer a question, he’ll do so honestly and succinctly.
His remarks on Walker are encouraging but it’ll all come down to training camp when the Broncos put the full pads on and start hitting. That’s when Fangio will know whether DeMarcus Walker can be salvaged and whether there’s a place for him on this team.
Meanwhile, Dre’Mont Jones will be pushing Walker from the rear, which could have a positive effect on Walker. The Broncos need both Walker and Jones to pan out, as all three of the team’s projected D-line starters will be free agents in 2020.
The ‘Fangio bump’ should trickle downhill to Walker, if Walker is anywhere near the player the team thought he was when they invested a high-round draft pick in him. Walker will have to capitalize on the opportunity to be coached by Fangio but if he works out, the Broncos’ defense could be all the more dangerous.
With Von Miller already leading the charge, over the last three draft hauls, the Broncos have thrown Bradley Chubb, DeMarcus Walker and now Dre’Mont Jones into the mix at the point of attack. On paper, that collective of pass-rushing talent should give Fangio all sorts of options on gameday, if the latter two pan out.