Tyrunn Walker's versatility a good fit for Austin's scheme

Posted Jul 17, 2015

Having a player like Tyrunn Walker, who can play multiple roles, will help defensive coordinator Teryl Austin continue to showcase different looks in his defense.

Back in March, while sitting around a table answering questions from his local media at the NFC coaches breakfast during the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix, Saints head coach Sean Payton was asked about Tyrunn Walker.

Walker had recently left New Orleans to sign a one-year, $1.75 million deal with Detroit to play alongside Haloti Ngata on Detroit's revamped defensive line.

Tyrunn WalkerDT Tyrunn Walker (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Payton paused for a second, smiled and went on to praise the rotational defensive lineman who sought more money and playing time in Detroit.

“He’s really versatile and he’s exceptionally smart,” Payton said. “I think he’s a great locker room guy too. Probably one of the smartest guys in that room.

“He’s going to know each position and he’s going to bump the guy to the left who’s not aligned right. He’s exceptionally smart. He’s available, healthy and he’s very, very smart.”

That was before Walker even strapped on a Lions helmet or lined up in Teryl Austin’s defense. Following 10 OTA practices and a three-day minicamp, it’s interesting that Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell echoed Payton's sentiments.

“One of the things that you saw with him right away is that he’s extremely versatile,” Caldwell said. “He played inside, he played outside and you can see as you watch him on the field he can run to the ball. He’s a big guy (6-3, 294) that can move.

“The thing that also jumps out is the fact that he played all those different positions (in New Orleans). The coaches that he’s worked with before said he knows every single defense, every position, where everybody’s going. I think that happens because of the fact that he has a pretty good insight into defensive football itself.

“He doesn’t just learn his position, he learns everything around him. When you have a guy like that, he understands where he’s supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there and hopefully it helps him do his job a little bit better.”

Walker, 24, played in all 16 games (one start) last season for the Saints with 19 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble as part of their defensive line rotation at both defensive tackle and defensive end.

He had a pass rushing productivity grade of 7.3 by Pro Football Focus, which was the 17th best of 72 qualifying defensive/nose tackles. He also finished 2014 with a total PFF grade of 8.0 on 306 snaps, second highest among all Saints lineman last year.

It appears that he and second-year defensive tackle Caraun Reid will fight for a starting spot alongside Ngata in Detroit, but nonetheless, Walker will be an important part of the rotation.

The Lions used a multitude of different fronts last season and Austin is on record as saying he plans to do the same this season, maybe even more without Ndamukong Suh and with the flexibility Ngata provides being able to play the nose, shade or three techniques.

Having a player like Walker, who can learn different defenses quickly and play multiple roles, will help Austin use many different schemes.

“Walker is a younger guy, hasn’t played as much football, but he does some really impressive things on tape and really caught our eye,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said after signing Walker.

Walker is already liking Austin’s scheme and it'll be interesting to see how the Lions deploy him when the pads come on and the schemes start to come together.

“It’s kind of free roam for the defensive tackle,” Walker said of Austin’s scheme. “Get off and do your thing and play football. It’s always good when you can take the reading out of it and get up the field and do your thing.”

The Lions are counting on Walker to do his thing and be a big part of their defensive line in 2015.