INDIANAPOLIS – Lions general manager Bob Quinn made it very clear Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he has a ton of respect for Glover Quin. Quinn said he leaned on the veteran safety when he first came to Detroit to take over as GM.
But in the end, the NFL is a business, and it was time for the Lions to give some of their youth at the position an opportunity to play, which is why the team released Quin earlier this month. The future at safety now looks to be Quandre Diggs and last year's third-round pick, Tracy Walker.
The Lions know what they have in Diggs, a Pro Bowl alternate this past season and an ascending player at the position.
In Walker, the Lions have a young, rangy, lengthy playmaker who impressed as a sub-package player as a rookie. What can he do in a bigger role? By Pro Football Focus grading standards, Walker was a top 16 safety in the NFL as a rookie getting limited snaps.
View photos from general managers and head coaches speaking to the media on Day 1 of the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
"We'll see who's going to be the starters next year when we get there," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "There will be competition all the way through, but I think he's (Walker) someone who made a lot of great strides through the past year."
Walker showed early on he could be a playmaker, intercepting San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo late in a Week 2 game that could have helped the Lions secure a victory, if not for a holding penalty away from the play on the other side of the field.
Walker got his hands on another interception later in the season in a win over Carolina, that one counting.
Part of the reason Quin was expendable this offseason was because of what Walker may be able to give the Lions with more opportunity to play.
That will ultimately depend on the work Walker puts in this offseason.
Walker has remained in the Detroit area this offseason to train and prepare for his second season. He said after the season that the increased role he had on defense the second half of the season helped jump start his development.
"It allowed me room for growth and I definitely grew from it," he said. "I'm very excited for that. I'm looking forward to next year. I'm anxious, it's going to be a great year, I feel like."
The Lions are hoping for the same thing.
"Another guy for us that was a rookie going into his second year, so he's going to have to continually build on that," Patricia said of Walker.
"Definitely a guy we identified coming out in the draft that we thought really had a couple good, different skill sets that we could utilize and we're going to try to expand on that the best we can because there's a couple things that he can do that maybe he didn't get an opportunity to do last year that maybe we saw in practice or in some of those one-on-one drills that maybe is something going forward, that we can utilize him for. We'll see how it all pans out."