Jaguars fans should be hyped up about Ryan Neilsen's plan for Travon Walker

• How much better can Jaguars OLB Travon Walker be under Ryan Nielsen's tutelage?

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) reacts to his sack on Baltimore Ravens
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Travon Walker (44) reacts to his sack on Baltimore Ravens / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

Outside linebacker Travon Walker made a leap in 2023 after a relatively quiet rookie campaign. Heading into Year 3, he'll be under pressure to keep improving. Fortunately for Walker, the Jacksonville Jaguars just hired Ryan Nielsen, who should be able to get the most out of him.

The Jags formally introduced Neilsen after hiring him to fill their vacancy at the defensive coordinator position in January. Throughout his exchange with the local media, Nielsen talked about the reasons that drew him to Jacksonville and his early thoughts on the team. Regarding Walker, he says he wants to put the former Georgia Bulldog in a position to succeed, noting that his skillset is more important than the scheme.

"Our philosophy with the players is we're going to put the player in a position that he can have success first over the scheme," Nielsen told the local media. "So we're going to evaluate everything that he does well. If he can rush inside, then we'll put them inside. If he's more of a better outside rusher, we'll keep him outside. Yes, we've evaluated those things, but 10 snaps, it's not enough to say that, yes, he can do that, or he can't do that."

"We'll identify that once we get to OTAs and then you know, and so the process is never-ending. We'll put our guys in the best positions for them to have success, and then ultimately we will have success on defense as a team," Nielsen said.

Walker, the first overall pick in the 2022 draft, registered just 3.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. One reasons for his limited production was that he made the transition to outside linebacker full-time after mostly playing with his hand on the ground on the Bulldogs' defense. On top of that, Walker later stated that he couldn't train as he would've liked during the draft process because he had to focus on interviews and meeting with teams.

Having gotten accustomed to rushing the passer from a standup position, Walker showed progress in Year 2. He finished the season strong, tallying five sacks in the last four games of 2023. He should be one of the players who'll benefit the most from Nielsen's arrival in Jacksonville.

Ryan Nielsen is taking the right approach with Travon Walker and other Jaguars players

To ensure there was some carryover and Travon Walker's development doesn't stall, the Jaguars kept outside linebackers coach Bill Shuey around. He played a big role in Walker's improvement and should, alongside Nielsen, help the Georgia native take his game to the next level. Having said that the pass rusher has seen success when he's played in a three-point stance, so Nielsen will see if that's where he's the most effective in training camp.

Nielsen told the local media he kind of knows the things his players can do best but he'll first focus on fundamentals and then see where they best fit in his system.

"All the coaches are having input on what we're doing, so it's all of our defense. That's a really cool process. We've studied the roster and we have a pretty good idea of where we'll start with our players, some of the techniques that we like to teach them, and then, we'll sort of move them around to see what else they can do. There's that process that we just did, we're kind of doing it again, some similarities and some differences, but the ultimate is this is going to be Jacksonville's defense."

Walker has shown he can play in a standup position or with his hand on the ground. That kind of flexibility should allow Nielsen to deploy him in different ways, and unlock his potential.

The bottom line is that Travon Walker has yet to reach his ceiling but he should be able to do it with Ryan Nielsen overseeing the Jaguars' defense.

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