For some, the Packers’ first selection in the 2022 NFL Draft appeared to be a surprise. For others, the selection previewed some exciting changes coming to Green Bay. So far during the first few weeks of practice, Packers’ rookie linebacker Quay Walker has already started on his path toward greatness.
After learning the ropes for the first few weeks of practice, Walker quickly found his footing and got caught up to speed with the rest of the team. By the first week of mandatory mini-camp Walker even seemed to have secured his place with the first-team defense. With voluntary OTAs returning this week, many of the Packers veterans were again absent from practice, leaving Walker with a great opportunity to test himself by taking command of the defense and rely defensive calls in red zone situations.
“I’m just trying to get better and soak up as much knowledge as I can,” Walker said. “I don’t take any day for granted. All the reps I’m getting in while the guys are gone, just trying to build my confidence. Building on it as much as I can and go from there.”
Despite his early successes throughout the offseason program, Walker mentioned on Tuesday while speaking to the media that a lack of confidence turned out to be a major struggle he was forced to overcome during his first few weeks with the team.
“That’s one of the things that I really want to work on,” Walker said. “I kind of lost my confidence when I first got here. I was kind of unsure of what was going on, just trying to get a good feeling… That’s the main thing, just trying to get my confidence back and just believing that there’s a reason that I’m here as well. I just got to trust and believe in that and my teammates as well for them to count on me.”
As the Packers’ first selection back in April’s draft, Walker immediately came into camp with a high level of expectations. Based on what we’ve seen from Walker and the Packers’ defense throughout mini-camp and OTAs, a new look on defense could prove to add more to Walker’s plate during his rookie year.
In the second year under defensive coordinator Joe Barry, the Packers look to implement a different look on defense, showcasing two inside linebackers on the field at the same time. A style of defense that is heavily utilized throughout some of the NFC’s top teams, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the San Francisco 49ers. With the Packers selecting another true interior linebacker in Walker with the first pick, all signs point toward that kind of change happening in Green Bay.
Entering the draft, Walker’s versatility at the position was something that was well documented. It’s also something that’s already been experimented with throughout practice with Walker aligning closer to the line of scrimmage as a potential pass rusher. Walker’s presence this year will allow the Packers to show more nickel and base looks on defense making it easier to disguise different coverages and blitzes.
As a rookie, Walker will first need to prove himself in order to lock in that number two spot on the team’s starting defense while battling against Krys Barnes. Along with Barnes, Walker has also benefitted from another mentor and leader to learn from at practice, last year’s First-Team All-Pro selection De’Vondre Campbell.
“[Campbell] doesn’t quite know it, but I watch him a whole lot, just trying to learn as much as I can from him,” Walker said. “How he goes about his day, how he gets his treatment in-between meetings and stuff like that and the things that he does. I just pick up off of everything — not only him but Krys as well. Those two guys are very good guys that I pretty much try to learn as much as I can from.”
A late free-agent acquisition from the last offseason, Campbell immediately made an impact on the Packers’ defense. Entering year two with the team, Campbell steps in as a true team leader on the defensive side of the ball with a new contract to show for it. On March 17, the Packers and Campbell agreed to a 5-year, $50,000,000 extension proving the team’s commitment to their new linebacker. Campbell is the perfect role model for a rookie to learn from and has already taken notice of the potential and talent Walker has shown thus far.
“I try to help and give as much advice as I can even though he doesn’t really need it, he’s already a baller,” Campbell posted Wednesday on his Twitter. “[Walker’s a] very smart young man with a great future ahead of him.”
While Walker seems to be off to a roaring start at practice and has truly been taking command of the defense, he recognizes that his impact on the team needs to be earned, not given, entering into his first season in Green Bay.
It’s yet to be determined how much Walker will play in his rookie season, although it should be safe to assume he’ll surpass Barnes’ last season total of 527 defensive snaps. On top of that, Walker could also become another weapon that can be utilized on special teams under Rich Bisaccia. Whatever his role may be, Walker understands the impact and influence he could bring to the team this season.
“At this point, I think this is the reason why I was chosen: I’m willing to do whatever the team needs me to do in order for us to play better and get a win, whatever the case may be,” Walker said. “I’m not really having a say so on what I want to do, it’s all about what the coaches need me to do and I’m willing to do that.”
Kole Noble is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in North Carolina and is a huge NFL Draft nut. You can follow him on twitter at @SlawSportsShow.