The Lions’ linebacker group is currently thin…is Erik Walden a possible addition this off-season?
The Lions currently have a group of linebackers that are extremely young as the oldest player is only 23 years old. As new head coach Matt Patricia begins his first season in Detroit, the possibility of adding some veterans to this group is very high as they look to have some mentors on and off the field. If you add in the fact that the will have multiple defensive packages which will include various 3-4 and 4-3 looks, then they must continue to bring in talented players who are athletic enough to play in various schemes. A free agent that fits this veteran mentor with the possibility of helping the defense as well is Super Bowl champion, Erik Walden.
I have watched five of Walden’s games from the 2017 season and have prepared an in-depth report that will give you some insight if the Lions decide to target him in free agency.
Name: Erik Walden
Position: 3-4 Sam OLB
DOB: 08-21-85 (32 years old)
College: Middle Tennessee State
Drafted: 2008– 6th – Dallas Cowboys
Former Team: Tennessee Titans
Games Played: 159
Games Started: 102
2017- No Injuries
2016- No Injuries
2015- Foot (Weeks 12-13, 14 – OUT, 15-17)
2014- Abdomen (Week 1), Quadricep (Weeks 9-10 – OUT, 11) Knee (Weeks 4, 13-17)
2013- Hamstring (Week 2), Elbow (Week 6)
2012- Ankle (Weeks 12, 16)
2011- No Injuries
2010- Quadricep (Weeks 16-17)
2009- Hamstring (Weeks 10-11 – OUT)
2008- No Injuries
2016- Played and started all 16 games, 3 FF, 11 sacks (Career High), 42 tackles
2014- Played 15 games, started 14, 1 PD, 1 FF, 6 sacks, and 46 tackles
2012- Played 15 games, started 9, 2 INT, 4 PD (Career High), 3 sacks, and 46 tackles
2011- Played 16 games, started 15, 3 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD, 3 sacks, and 60 tackles (Career High)
Career Stats- 102 career starts, 2 INT, 2 TD, 13 PDs, 7 FF, 3 FR, 1 TD, 35 sacks, and 365 tackles.
Weight: 238 lbs.
40-yard dash: N/A *
10-yard split: N/A *
Arm Length: N/A *
Hand Size: N/A *
3 Cone: N/A *
Short Shuttle: 4.29
Broad Jump: N/A *
Bench Press: 25 reps
*- Numbers are not available because he was not invited to combine and there are no numbers from his pro day at Middle Tennessee State.
2017- vs SEA 09/24, vs IND 10/16, vs HOU 12/03, @ ARI 12/10, @ SF 12/17
Best: Zone Coverage, Pass Rush vs TE, Ability to leverage vs Run at POA vs TE, Ability to leverage vs Outside Run vs TE to his side
Worst: Athletic Ability, Mental Processing, vs Run at POA, vs Outside Run, Pass Rush, Tackling
Athletic Ability: 3/7
Mental Processing: 3/7
Competitive Toughness: 3/7
Play Speed: 3/7
Play Strength: 3/7
Run at Point of Attack: 3/7
Outside Run: 3/7
Zone Coverage: 5/7
Man Coverage: N/A – is discussed below
Ball Skills: N/A – is discussed below
Walden is a twelve-year player who played all sixteen games (started two games) for the Tennessee Titans in 2017. Under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, he was put in situations that allowed him to drop in zone coverage, pass rush on 3rd and long, and be a role player for the entire season. He had four sacks, one fumble recovery, and 36 tackles in 2017. Walden has adequate size as his height (6’2) and weight (238) are both below the 50th percentile for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He displays overall adequate athletic ability as his balance when engaged, quickness, agility when changing direction, and explosiveness are all below average.
He is a good zone coverage defender due to solid mental processing pre and post-snap to understand route combinations, formations, and down & distance. Walden has a solid ability to key the hips and leverage his zone as the hook/curl defender, he creates solid contact with the number two receiver and then expands into his zone, and is solid when asked to be hook/curl player and spy the quarterback. He is solid at leveraging run at the point of attack against tight ends, specifically split zone and inside zone, as he is able to get better leverage, use better hand placement, and is stronger than solid or below tight ends. Walden is also solid at leveraging against tight ends on outside run plays as he is able to use his strength and hand placement to set the edge when outside runs are coming his way. He has an average pass rush when matched up against tight ends as he is able to utilize his pass rush plan of a bull rush, push/pull/rip, dip/rip, uses better timing, hand placement, and strength, and he will show better effort against tight ends to win his 1 v 1 reps.
Walden is an adequate run defender at the point of attack due to adequate mental processing to key and diagnose formations and blocking schemes pre and post-snap. He displays adequate decision making as he will run upfield and get pushed out of plays. Walden has a below average ability to leverage against gap as he uses adequate hand placement and marginal strength. He also has a below average ability to leverage inside zone from both the play side and backside as offensive linemen will get better leverage with footwork, technique, and quickness off the ball. Walden displays a marginal ability to disengage blocks as the running back will run right past him and he will shed late, he cannot effectively shed against tight ends or offensive linemen due to marginal strength, and he gets overpowered by offensive linemen at the point of attack.
He is below average against running plays to the outside due to adequate mental processing to key and diagnose pre and post-snap and displays below average decision making. Walden has a marginal ability to leverage against gap as he will get overpowered by offensive linemen and he has an adequate ability to leverage against outside zone as offensive linemen will easily reach him due to having better quickness, hand placement, and strength. He displays a marginal ability to disengage blocks due to adequate hand placement and marginal strength and has an adequate finish as he does not set the edge on outside zone to him, when he is backside against outsize zone he takes marginal angles, and he displays marginal pursuit from the backside on gap and outside zone. Walden has adequate play strength and competitive toughness on all running plays as he does not compete at a high level consistently, he is not physical at the point of attack, he loses his 1 v 1 reps, and he is not mentally tough enough to make a play in critical moments on third downs, goal line situations, or at the end of a game.
Walden is a below average pass rusher due to adequate upfield burst and a marginal pass rush plan as he appears to have some tricks up his sleeve, but he does not display them consistently as he will primarily bull rush which he does not have the strength to consistently win with. He displays adequate timing and hand placement while using marginal strength. When Walden rushes from a 0-4 tech he is marginal and when he rushes from a 5-7 tech he is adequate. He is a below average tackler as he displays marginal angles and strength with adequate form, he does not tackle low to high, and when given the opportunity he does not strip the ball or attempt to. His man coverage and ball skills are not displayed as he was not asked to play man coverage as a 3-4 outside linebacker as he primarily played with his hand in the dirt and he was not thrown to as the hook/curl defender when he did drop into zone coverage.
Overall, Walden is a 3-4 “sam” outside linebacker role player who can provide additional support on passing situations and when given the opportunity to match up 1 v 1 against tight ends due to his good zone coverage abilities and solid leverage ability against tight ends on running plays. His adequate athletic ability, mental processing, ability to play the run at the point of attack and outside, pass rush, and tackling abilities limit him from being a starter you can win in spite of. Walden’s 2017 contract was $3.25 million, but after a very sub-par year and the fact that he is 32 years old, his 2018 contract will be less than $2 million. The Lions could definitely take a stab at the veteran and see if he still has anything left in the tank but they would be better off looking at other free agents or continuing to keep their group young and add through the draft.