Walker was one of the team’s most productive defenders in the 24-12 win on Monday Night Football. The 22-year-old finished with five solo tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, and a pair of pass deflections. Pro Football Focus also listed Walker as the team’s highest-graded defender in the game, posting an impressive 87.0 overall grade.
While there are still some things that he needs to clean up, the film showed an explosive, and sometimes decisive, off-ball linebacker with serious potential.
One of Walker’s biggest problems earlier in his rookie season has been hesitancy when reading his keys. However, when he’s comfortable with what he sees and is able to aggressively attack downhill, the first-round linebacker can wreak havoc in the backfield.
When Quay is decisive attacking downhill, he is lethal. pic.twitter.com/oOxvK9ObJw— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
The 6’4”, 240-pound linebacker is also able to use his size and explosiveness when rushing the passer as a blitzer. While he hasn’t been able to cleanly get to the quarterback before, Walker was able to get his first solo sack on Monday by showing an impressive ability to bend after attacking downhill at full speed around the edge.
Pretty ridiculous bend for a 6'4", 240-pound ILB blitzing off the edge at full speed. pic.twitter.com/YSXvSSNq3t— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
Walker also did a much better job in pass coverage than he has in the past. At times, the rookie has gotten caught drifting out of his zone, or leaving his assignment, based on where the quarterback was looking. That wasn’t the case (most of the time) on Monday, with Walker doing a good job of staying with his assignments and breaking downhill as the pass was being thrown.
In fact, on two different coverage plays where Walker stayed disciplined, he almost made ridiculous interceptions thanks to his impressive athleticism.
This was a nice job by Walker sticking to his assignment covering the RB/checkdown.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
Didn't get caught drifting with Mayfield looking away from him, then did a nice job breaking on the ball to almost make an extremely athletic INT. pic.twitter.com/SH2UpEfqfp
This is a much better job by Quay not to drift when following the QB's eyes.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
Puts himself in the perfect position to get in the way of Mayfield's throw, and is a big reason for the incompletion. pic.twitter.com/Qbrb986iHT
It’s always worth mentioning what a player can clean up, especially with a rookie. For as impressive as a couple of pass-coverage reps were from Walker, he also got caught biting on the pump fake.
Quay tried to jump the pass on a pump-fake, giving up the middle of the field for a much easier throw for Mayfield.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
Packers bailed out by the drop. pic.twitter.com/QM52uTNBXp
With Walker’s responsibility being the middle of the field, the rookie got caught staring at Mayfield and attacked where he thought the quarterback was throwing and vacated the middle of the field. Fortunately, the Packers were saved on the play because of a drop.
Against the run, Walker still has troubles with scraping and holding outside contain, particularly against gap scheme run concepts. With pullers coming across the formation, Walker needs to do a better job of engaging blocks while keeping his outside shoulder free in order to force running backs to take a wider angle and prevent them from creating explosive runs.
Quay Walker had one of his best games of the season, but still some things to clean up.— Tyler Brooke (@TylerDBrooke) December 22, 2022
With the EDGE crashing inside here to attack the pullers, Walker needs to keep his outside shoulder clean when taking on any blocks so that he can prevent the RB from bouncing outside. pic.twitter.com/8GVZVGPRS4
Still, considering where Walker started this season, the progress and development was on display on Monday night. If he can continue to work on the finer points of the position, then Walker could become a dominant linebacker in 2023 and beyond.