JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The biggest criticism of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ decision to select Travon Walker is that the defensive end’s production at Georgia fell short of expectations for a No. 1 NFL Draft pick.
Walker and the Jaguars think that’s going to change pretty quickly once he gets to camp and settles in one place instead of lining up multiple positions each week.
“To all the people who say I can’t rush or do anything [or that] I wasn’t as productive at Georgia, I never really played one position consistently,” Walker said on Friday. “So I feel like I’ll be able to grow as a player because I just focus on one position. main position. … It’s very exciting because I’ve always been on the move since I was in high school and I was a supporting role in high school.
“I’ve only ever played one position, so when people say I don’t have a lot of production, but once I can train for one position, that will come by itself.”
This spot will almost certainly 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 except the Atlanta Falcons (47). Opponents were able to focus on limiting defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen as there was no one on the other side to draw attention.
General manager Trent Baalke said Walker’s versatility is a strength, but it’s also prevented him from racking up the kind of sack count 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 lined up at nose tackle and tight end. He said he told his coaches he wanted to get on the pitch any way he could and would be happy to play anywhere.
The result wasn’t exactly impressive stats-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 has become a top-three pick since sacks became an official NCAA stat. He is also the only player drafted first overall in the Common Draft era (since 1967) not to make an All-American or all-conference team while in college.
The Jaguars envision Walker eventually playing multiple spots in coordinator Mike Caldwell’s plan, but they don’t want to complicate things for the rookie just yet. So Walker will start out as a peak rusher, and as he gets more comfortable they will add to what they ask him to do.
There’s no timeline on that because getting the basics is the most important thing right now, head coach Doug Pederson said.
“We want to get Travon here in a few weeks actually for our rookie minicamp, our development program with the rookies, really getting them started with the philosophy and the terminology of defense,” Pederson said. “And really, as Travon alluded to, put him in one place and let him grow in one place. And obviously there’s versatility, so as we grow with him and he schematically understands what we do, we can move it around the defense just a bit.
“It’s just a matter of getting him here, acclimating him, getting him around teammates, getting him started with defense and really solidifying a place and letting him grow there.”