More often than not, NFL rookies experience an acclimation process while making the transition from college to the pros. But for a moment, it looked like Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Travon Walker was going to have an immediate impact and he kind of did.
In the opener against the Washington Commanders in Week 1, Walker registered a sack and an interception. However, he’s cooled down considerably since then and has committed a pair of head-scratching penalties in back-to-back games. Against the Houston Texans in Week 5, the former Georgia Bulldog was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and last week, he was called for roughing the passer.
Those are the kind of penalties that breathe new life into an opponent’s drive and Walker did it in consecutive games. Yet, head coach Doug Pederson told the local media Wednesday that he believes the rookie linebacker has made strides and will get better.
“What you’re seeing is teams are aware of him and scheme and protection towards him, Pederson said. “So he’s gaining the recognition and obviously, gaining respect to the opponents. But at the same time, he needs to understand that he can’t get frustrated. He’s got to continue to work and find ways to create, just play within himself”.
“He’s a good player. He’s only gonna get better. These are great learning experiences. Obviously, two penalties that I know he would like to have back but he’ll learn and sometimes you learned the hard way, and that’s what he’s going through right now”.
Walker was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft. His selection raised eyebrows because he was seen as a talented but raw prospect coming out of college. The fact that defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was also available when the Jags took him earned them even more scorn.
The Jaguars knew what they were getting with Travon Walker
Had general manager Trent Baalke gotten his way, the Jags would have traded down in the draft but there was no serious interest in the top pick. Stuck with the selection, Jacksonville might have seen Walker as the player with the most upside, which made them take a gamble on him.
Back at Georgia, Walker played different roles but didn’t often rush the passer from a standup position. He made the transition to outside linebacker full-time in the offseason and has grown accustomed. While his production doesn’t pop off the stat sheet, he’s been double, as Pederson alluded. This goes on to show that opponents are game-planning for him because they know he can wreak havoc if he isn’t accounted for.
Of course, the Jaguars drafted Walker to consistently come up with game-changing plays like the ones he had against the Commanders. But if he keeps getting better as Pederson suggested, it will be just a matter of time before he does.