4 Jacksonville Jaguars players who will benefit the most from the Ryan Nielsen hire

• The Jaguars have a new DC in Ryan Nielsen. His arrival should benefit these 4 players in 2024
Jun 14, 2023; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen answers
Jun 14, 2023; Flowery Branch, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen answers / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
4 of 4

1. Travon Walker, outside linebacker

While the jury is still out on Travon Walker, the Jaguars should be pleased with the growth he experienced in his sophomore campaign. After a relatively quiet rookie campaign, the former Georgia Bulldog tallied 10 sacks and was a force against the run. Even though he's still got room for improvement, he's proving that the decision to draft him first overall in 2022 wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time.

Heading into the draft, the pick was going to come down to Walker, Aidan Hutchinson, Evan Neal, or Ikem Ekwonu. Ultimately, the Jags went with Walker. Hutchinson landed with the Detroit Lions while Neal and Ekwonu fell to the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers respectively. The fact that Hutchinson made an impact right off the bat and finished his rookie season with nine sacks cast doubt on the decision to take Walker.

On the other hand, Neal and Ekwonu have struggled, so the Jags should get a bit of credit for passing on both. Add the fact that Walker still has plenty of untapped potential and the pick looks much better than it did two years ago.

Nielsen's specialty is the defensive line. While Walker moved to outside linebacker full-time in the NFL, he thrived when he played in a three-point stance. It's also worth noting that outside linebacker Bill Shuey was one of the few assistants Jacksonville retained, so there will be some carryover in Walker's development.

Whether Walker lines up with his hand on the ground or rushes the passer from a standup position, Nielsen, along with Shuey, should be able to unlock Walker's talent. Don't be surprised if he has a breakout season in 2024.

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