Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers: Jalen Walker Can Bring Physical Play Style to Secondary

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn

Boise State cornerback, Jalen Walker would bring a physical play style to the Green Bay Packers secondary

If the 2020 NFL season were to start today, the Green Bay Packers would have a solid cornerback duo in Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. The cornerback depth chart behind Alexander and King leaves a lot to be desired.

Josh Jackson, a former second-round pick has yet to find his footing at the next level. Ka’dar Hollman, a 2019 sixth-round pick flashed his potential in the preseason but saw little to no action during his rookie year. Chandon Sullivan had stretches of good play as the nickel cornerback in 2019, but can he become a reliable, full-time contributor in Mike Pettine’s secondary? 

With all those question marks and the fact that King is playing in the final year of his rookie deal, it’s a safe bet that the Green Bay Packers will invest heavily in the cornerback position during the 2021 offseason. The good news for Green Bay is the 2021 draft is loaded with talented cornerbacks. One of those cornerbacks is Boise State’s, Jalen Walker.

The Boise State cornerback earned second-team All-Mountain West in 2019. Walker finished the season with 53 tackles, three tackles for loss (TFL), one interception and 10 pass deflections His lone interception was a pick-six against the Green Bay Packers 2020 first-round pick, Jordan Love.

The first thing that stands out about Walker’s game is the physical nature in which he plays. Dave Southorn, the former Boise State beat reporter for The Athletic, said that Walker’s greatest strength is his tenacious play style. 

His tenacity,” Southorn said. “It manifests itself in different ways, but you see it clearly in his style. He’s by far the team’s most physical corner, and even if someone gets some separation, he closes the gap quickly. To use a PFF stat, on 78 targets, he allowed a step or more of separation on 25%, the second-lowest rate in the FBS.”

That physical play style is on full display when watching Walker in run support. He isn’t afraid to throw his body around and is coming off a season in which he recorded three tackles for loss. Southorn said that he believed Walker’s best strength heading into the 2019 season was his work against the run.

“Personally, I thought this was his best strength coming into the season. Half of his 3.0 TFL last season came against Air Force, so he was active against that tough system. He’s about 190 pounds, so could get a little bigger, but he plays big because of his physical nature. Still, it can improve, as he gets a little less lanky.  I remember a missed ankle tackle on a Colorado State touchdown last year he should’ve had.”

Walker is a physical man-to-man press corner that makes life difficult for receivers to get a clean release. He has good foot quickness and stays in the wide receiver’s hip pocket.  The senior cornerback doesn’t give up much separation, forcing a tight window for the quarterback to throw into. According to Pro Football Focus, Walker rarely allowed a step or more of separation in 2019. 

“Walker produced an 83.2 coverage grade this past year and routinely forced tight coverage. Among his 78 targets in coverage in 2019, the receiver had a step or more separation on just a quarter of them. That formed a rate that was the second-lowest among FBS cornerbacks. Many don’t know the name Jalen Walker, but if he plays like this again in 2020, it’ll be hard to ignore.”

Walker doesn’t have a lot of ball production in terms of interceptions (only one career interception). However, he plays with a my-ball mentality, recording 12 pass deflections over the last two seasons. His physical play style and long frame makes life difficult for wide receivers at the catch point. As a former wide receiver, he displays good route recognition and does a great job of breaking on the ball.

I think he’s going to get more interceptions this year, but he obviously still made positive plays,” Southorn said. “He is right about 6-0, so he has decent enough size to challenge receivers in just about any situation. He played receiver in high school, too, so you can see a bit of that in how he plays. He has a good knowledge of what they do. In short, yes, he does make it difficult for them, and I think it’s still a skill he’s improving at the same time.”

The Boise State secondary is stocked with talent. Aside from Walker, they have two other talented seniors at cornerback. 

Avery Williams was named the Mountain West Special Teams Player of the Year for his work as a return man (two punt return touchdowns). In three seasons, Williams has four interceptions and 25 pass deflections. 

Kekaula Kaniho is a talented nickel cornerback. In 2019 he recorded 61 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three sacks, seven pass deflections, and one interception. 

While both Williams and Kaniho are talented cornerbacks, Southorn said it’s Walker’s physical play style that separates him from the other cornerbacks on the team. It’s that physical play style that makes him one of the top 2021 draft candidates for the Broncos. 

“I’ve asked fellow senior cornerback, Avery Williams about this. Williams says he’s more of a finesse, technical guy, and that Walker is the sort who will put his body on you from the snap. Walker didn’t have a clear path to start until last year, though if Boise State didn’t have Williams and Tyler Horton, he would have. Walker isn’t afraid to get physical, and that’s why I like watching him and why his is different from the other corners on this team. Boise State had some issues late in the season, particularly on third downs. Sports Information Solutions says he was targeted 11th-most in the country in the season, but allowed only one TD. He also was targeted most in the MW in November and December, but allowed 100 fewer yards than Williams, targeted third-most. He’s a guy that still is underrated, but I think people are going to take notice in 2020. Unless WR Khalil Shakir leaves early, and even if he does, Walker should be the team’s best 2021 draft candidate.”

Share:

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on pinterest
Pinterest
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x