One Unsung Hero Can Revitalize The Detroit Lions Defense

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Tracy Walker is a player to watch for the Detroit Lions in 2019

Many fans of the Detroit Lions simply know Tracy Walker as the Lions third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s a secondary player on the defensive side of the ball, mainly a safety who also has experience playing cornerback at Louisiana Lafayette for the Ragin’ Cajuns in college. However, this small-school third-round prospect could completely unlock the defense for Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni heading into his second year in the NFL.

Kenny Golladay was a small-school wide receiver out of the University of Northern Illinois just one year prior by Bob Quinn. After a rookie year where he suffered an injury and missed some games, and spent most of the year as the third, fourth or fifth receiving option behind Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and debatably Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick, he showed flashes during a solid rookie campaign, including during the Week 1 meeting against the Arizona Cardinals. He quickly became a fan favorite and it seems with every passing week more and more #19 jerseys show up at Ford Field as he continues to be a playmaker for the offense. Kenny Golladay exploded onto the scene this season, and received an increased target share following his first full year of development, and was the Lions only receiving target to play in all 16 games this season following the trade of Golden Tate and the season-ending injury of Marvin Jones.

Tracy Walker should be able to make the same kind of impact on defense in his own second season as a third-round small-school pick. Walker, like Golladay, made a really flashy play early on in his rookie season. It took Tracy Walker until the second week, but he made what very well could have been the game-winning pick-six for the Lions against the San Francisco 49ers until it was called back due to a somewhat questionable holding call on the opposite side of the field against Quandre Diggs prior to the pass being thrown, negating the play. Following that, he made an impact in limited snaps for the defense and continued to earn high marks from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for his solid play on the defensive side of the ball. His borderline elite 89.8 grade from PFF would be the second-highest they’ve ever given out to a Detroit Lions safety behind Glover Quin’s 90.6 in 2017 and the fourth-highest grade they’ve ever given a Lions Defender at any position (behind Damon Harrison’s 92.1 in 2018, Quin’s aforementioned 90.6, and A’Shawn Robinson’s 89.9 which topped Walker by .1 in 2018). This would’ve been good enough if he qualified for the fourth-best safety in the National Football League.

Appearing in 267 Snaps (27.05%) according to Pro Football Reference, he did his job by staying off the radar. Making solid tackles, covering receivers, and doing the little things that should make him a solid player going forward. Very rarely, if ever, was he burned for a touchdown, missed an easy play, or got caught grossly out of position leading to an explosive offensive play. According to an MLive Article published following the game against the Arizona Cardinals this season by Kyle Meinke, at that point in the season, he had been targeted only five times in coverage, and allowed only two completions, leading to a 10.8 QBR (Quarterback Rating) when targeted.

With Glover Quin likely having played his last game at Ford Field in 2018, Tracy Walker could be – and likely will be – the next man up. It will be his time to shine under the bright lights. Like Kenny Golladay before him, should quickly become a fan favorite, and a playmaker on his side of the ball, as the latest small-school, under the radar steal by Bob Quinn and the rest of his front office.

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