Jaguars eye plan to boost Walker sack production

Jaguars eye plan to boost Walker sack production

Jacksonville Jaguars plan to keep Travon Walker at one position, hope sack production 'will come on its own'6:09 PM ET

Michael DiRoccoESPN Staff Writer Close

  • Covered University of Florida for 13 seasons for ESPN.com and Florida Times-Union
  • Graduate of Jacksonville University
  • Multiple APSE award winner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The biggest criticism of the Jacksonville Jaguars' decision to select Travon Walker is that the defensive end's production at Georgia didn't match the expectations of a No. 1 overall NFL draft pick.

Both Walker and the Jaguars believe that's going to change pretty quickly once he gets into camp and settles into one spot instead of lining up in multiple positions every week.

"To all the people that say that I can't pass rush or do whatever [or that] I wasn't as productive at Georgia, I never really just played one position consistently," Walker said Friday. "So I feel like I'll be able to grow as a player as I just focus on one main position. ... It's very exciting because I've always moved around ever since I was in high school and played middle linebacker in high school.

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"I've never just played one position, so when people say I don't have a lot of production, but once I do just get to train for one position, then that will come on its own."

That spot is almost certainly going to be on the edge, which is where the Jaguars need the most help. The Jaguars have 50 sacks over the past two seasons -- fewer than any team but the Atlanta Falcons (47). Opponents have been able to concentrate on limiting defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen because there hasn't been anyone on the other side to draw any attention.

General manager Trent Baalke said Walker's versatility is a strength, but it also prevented him from putting up the kind of sack numbers that a player like Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson did last season (14). Walker played 52% of his snaps last season at defensive end, but he also lined up at defensive tackle and outside linebacker.

Walker also has lined up at nose tackle and on the tight end, too. He said he told his coaches he wanted to get on the field any way he could and he'd be happy playing anywhere.

The result was not exactly impressive stat-wise: Walker had six sacks and 37 tackles last season to help Georgia win the national championship behind the nation's top-ranked defense. But his 9.5 sacks represent the fewest career sacks by a defensive end/linebacker who went on to be a top-three pick since sacks became an official stat in the NCAA. He's also the only player drafted first overall in the common draft era (since 1967) to not make an All-American or all-conference team in college.

The Jaguars envision Walker eventually playing multiple spots in coordinator Mike Caldwell's scheme, but they don't want to complicate things for the rookie right away. So Walker will start out as an edge rusher, and as he gets more comfortable they'll add to what they're asking him to do.

There's no timetable on that because getting a base knowledge is the most important thing right now, head coach Doug Pederson said.

"We want to get Travon in here in a couple weeks actually for our rookie minicamp, our developmental program with the rookies, really get them started with the philosophy and the terminology on defense," Pederson said. "And really as Travon alluded to, put him in one spot and let him grow in one spot. And obviously there is versatility, so as we grow with him and as he understands what we're doing schematically, we can move him around the defense just a little bit.

"It's just a matter of getting him in here, getting him acclimated, getting him around the teammates, and getting him started with the defense and really solidifying one spot and letting him grow in that spot."