Tracy Walker surged onto the scene as a rookie in 2018 with a really nice first season in a limited role after being a third-round pick by the Detroit Lions out of Louisiana-Lafayette that offseason.
Walker was solid as a first-year starter in 2019 and looked to be well on his way to being an impact player in Detroit's defense. But last season was Walker's most difficult as a professional. He received his lowest grade from Pro Football Focus, and was credited with allowing a completion percentage of 73.5 in his coverage area with seven touchdowns allowed and an opposing passer rating of 142.6.
The previous scheme forced Walker to play more of the box safety role, and Walker admitted after the season that probably didn't suit his skillset the best. In defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn's new system, Walker is back to playing the high safety role, which allows him to roam the field more and be a playmaker. He's really enjoying that role, along with the coaching he's getting so far.
It shouldn't be too hard for Walker to buy in to Glenn's coaching and the scheme change here in Detroit, especially given the success Glenn's had developing safeties in his previous role as the secondary coach in New Orleans.
"I'm just bought in on learning this new scheme and as much as I can from these coaches," Walker said. "The resume speaks for itself with the previous safeties that they've coached. They made a lot of plays. Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, both those guys are Pro Bowlers. It just speaks for itself. Malcolm Jenkins, I could keep going. All were great safeties and made a lot of plays and they all listened to AG."
Glenn has already been impressed with Walker's skillset and how it might fit into what he wants to do on defense. Could he mold Walker into the next great safety he's coached?
"It's our job as coaches to not have the down Tracy. To have the up Tracy," Glenn said. "We have to continue to teach and he has to learn and understand exactly what we expect of him. That was the No. 1 thing, the expectations. Now it's getting him in the classroom and putting the tape on and showing him exactly how we want our safeties to play."
Glenn said Walker has come in ready to learn and was outstanding the first couple days of OTAs last week.
"He keeps asking questions," Glenn said. "Man, when we're done with practice, trying to get his film watched and things like that, so he's eating up all of this stuff. I would say this, if you go back and watch New Orleans safeties each year, they would have four or five interceptions. Malcolm Jenkins, who maybe had one or two interceptions a year for the past seven or eight years, he comes to New Orleans and he has the best year of his career. Any player in their right mind would want to learn as much as they can as far as how we play our safeties in the backend."
Walker feels like Glenn and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant, who also coached some pretty good cornerbacks and safeties with the Rams the last four seasons, are going to help transform his game into a more consistent one.
View photos from the fifth day of OTAs on Thursday, June 3rd.
"Every little movement he makes, every drill where he's out there, just not letting him slip," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said of the impact Pleasant has had on Walker.
"It's just a focus, that's all it is. It's just him training the brain. 'I have to train myself one more time to cut it loose here.' Just let yourself go and really trust what you're being taught. He's already made vast improvement. I thought (Wednesday) he really did some good things."
Campbell said the most important thing he's observed about Walker so far this offseason is how Walker's hungry to get better and wants to be good. For Campbell, that's a big starting point. The rest will take care of itself.