The Green Bay Packers dropped to 4-7 after a loss to the Tennessee Titans on Thursday. The defeat likely means their playoff hopes are all but over, but there were still some positive takeaways from Week 11, including their rookie linebacker enjoying one of his best games for the season. Filling in as the ‘Mike’ for an injured De’Vondre Campbell, Quay Walker logged a team-high 12 tackles and made several impactful plays to justify his first-round selection.
Earlier in the season, we did a film review of Walker’s performance against the Minnesota Vikings. While Walker’s athleticism certainly jumped off the screen, his hesitancy and mental mistakes showed an inexperienced rookie making his first career start.
Fast forward to Week 11, and Walker has clearly made strides in his development. Today, we are taking a closer look at his film against the Titans to see what went into arguably his best performance of the season.
Let’s get to it.
There’s been some discussion about Walker (#7) making the switch to edge rusher, but that requires a certain level of physicality and hand technique that he lacks. If you want Walker to be a successful pass rusher, using him as a blitzer is your best bet. For example, get him one-on-one against a running back, and it produces more reps like the one you see here, with Walker showing his lateral quickness to sidestep Derrick Henry to contribute to the sack.
One of the Packers’ best moments against Tennessee was this fourth-down stop in the second quarter. The Titans are facing fourth and one, so they make the prudent decision to give the ball to the best power back in football. Walker is lined up as the 9-tech and makes the key play to blow up this run. We see great up-field burst from Walker to beat the block and get into the backfield. From there, it’s pure strength and determination to prevent Henry from getting one yard.
Coverage was a weakness for Walker earlier in the season, but it was a strength this week. He does a nice job diagnosing this play-action pass and then recognizing the tight end running a short in-breaker. Getting away with a slight tug, Walker would have been in good position to defend the pass if it was on target.
Here is another zone coverage drop from Walker. He passes off the first route and is quick to notice another receiver entering his area. Before the ball is out of the quarterback’s hand, Walker is closing in on the receiver. You love to see this mental processing and then finishing the play with an open-field tackle against Treylon Burks, who is known for running after the catch.
Now let’s look at Walker in the run game. This first play is a great display of his ability to fill and flow. Notice how Walker doesn’t overcommit to the first read, where he would have been blocked and likely taken himself out of the play completely. Instead, Walkers keeps his eyes on Henry and mirrors him into the gap for a proper run fit.
Walker’s sideline-to-sideline speed came as advertised. Teams are going to have minimal success with jet sweeps and end-arounds when he is on the field. Walker shows good play recognition here and then uses his speed to make another impressive open-field tackle.
I love this rep from Walker. Again, he stays patient and doesn’t shoot the first gap he sees. His eyes never leave Henry, who attempts to get around the edge only to find a rangy Walker there to make the tackle.
This was an important play to highlight, and not because Tennessee got away with a penalty. These second-level blitzes are a tremendous use of Walker’s speed, which is hard for an offensive lineman to deal with if they aren’t prepared. Walker has a free lane to the quarterback before the center recognizes it late and gets away with a hold to prevent a sack. Unlucky play for Walker and the Packers since it leads to a huge gain.
Here’s another great example of Walker’s alignment versatility. Walker looks like a seasoned veteran defending this outside zone from the edge as he clamps down to be in perfect position for the cutback.
I’m encouraged by the creative uses Green Bay’s coaching staff has found for Walker. There is a healthy balance between maximizing his potential and putting too much on his plate, and I think the Packers are finding it. He can be trusted as an elite run defender who can also hold his own in coverage and as a blitzer, which has allowed him to become a more complete player. Overall, I think Green Bay is feeling pretty good about the future of their first-round pick and the improvements that are happening basically every week.