CANTON, Ohio — Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Travon Walker wasted no time making an impact in his NFL debut.
Walker, the NFL’s first draft pick this year, played just two series in his team’s 27-11 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday night, but he saved a sack and had another squeeze in what he says was just a glimpse of what he could possibly do consistently for years to come.
“It was really exciting, just being out there on an NFL roster, out there on an NFL team playing with other NFL players,” Walker said. “Something I will always remember [will be] my first shot.”
It was then that Walker first opened up about some of the reasons the Jaguars opted to replace him with the more experienced passing thrower Aidan Hutchinson, who came in second to the Detroit Lions. He rushed the Raiders to the left of tackle Brandon Parker and reached quarterback Jarrett Stidham as he released the ball. Unfortunately, Walker put his hand around Stidham’s neck and was flagged for roughing up the passer.
Head coach Doug Pederson called it one of the many teaching moments Walker will experience as a rookie.
“There are timing issues when you [rush] quarterbacks and hitting quarterbacks and when you can hit quarterbacks and all that kind of stuff, and it’ll just come from watching it, learning from it,” Pederson said. “You never try to slow down his athleticism and power that way, but he’ll learn from it and do better.”
He learned pretty quickly, apparently. Walker – who said he was disappointed he couldn’t get the sack on his first snap – got Stidham on the Raiders’ next possession, this time grabbing Stidham around his midsection and pulling him to the ground to a 3 meter loss.
“It was definitely an exciting feeling,” Walker said. “It was my first [sack] but, like, a lot more to come.”
That’s what the Jaguars are hoping for, and it’s one of the reasons they drafted Walker, a 6-foot-5, 272-pound former Georgia defensive lineman. Walker managed just 9.5 sacks in his three seasons with the Bulldogs, but he played mostly indoors. The Jaguars traded him to outside linebacker. They believe it can thrive there due to its size, length, speed, and power.
Walker had been impressive one-on-one in training camp, but his lack of experience as an outside pass thrower left him deficient in passing-rush moves and counter-moves. These are things he will have to develop in his first few seasons, but for now he will rely on his speed and power as much as possible.
It was effective against the Raiders, at least.
“I think he did some really good things,” Pederson said. “There were some good, quick quick passes in there. He’s very disruptive. He showed his length, his athleticism, his power. He’s going to be fun to watch all season.”