Here is some pretty solid advice for all the rookie players out there battling through their first training camp, and trying to earn a role for their respective teams:
Find an established veteran. Do what he does, and be receptive to any kind of advice he gives, no matter how insignificant you might think it is, because chances are it’s not insignificant at all.
Detroit Lions rookie defensive back Tracy Walker has one of the best mentors around in veteran Glover Quin, a 10-year player who’s been among the better safeties in the NFL over the past several years now. Quin has always been the kind of player to take young guys under his wing and show them the ropes. He did it most recently with Darius Slay, and to this day, Slay credits Quin, among others, with having a big hand in the success he’s enjoyed early in his career.
That’s why it was good to see Walker coming off the practice field earlier this week talking with Quin, presumably about something that had just occurred in practice. The two even stopped for a bit as Quin wanted to continue the point he was making, diagraming something in the palm of his hand.
“Definitely being able to go and ask questions and see his insight on things is definitely great for me,” Walker said. “It’s definitely going to help me develop my game.”
The fact that veterans like Quin are so willing to pass along what they’ve learned to the young players coming up, is something head coach Matt Patricia says speeds along the progress for the young guys in camp.
“That’s what is great about the guys that we have,” Patricia said. “I think you hit right on the head with Glover, I mean that’s a guy who’s so unselfish and a guy that is going to give everything he has from a knowledge standpoint, technique standpoint, and just try to help the younger players get better, which in turn helps the team.
“That’s really the whole mentality of it, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, same thing. Those guys are phenomenal back there with that group to just pull them together and say, ‘Hey, if you’re doing this keep your eyes here or look at this or this is the alignment over here.’
“And once you kind of get the players themselves self-coaching or self-correcting, however you want to look at it then the progress of those guys just goes up tremendously. Credit to those players.”
The Lions drafted Walker in the third round in this year’s draft because general manager Bob Quinn liked Walker’s size (6-1, 206), athleticism and toughness.
The Lions are deep at safety with Quin and experienced veterans like Wilson and Diggs at the position, but depth always seems to be challenged throughout the course of a 16-game NFL season.
Walker, like most rookies, is very much a work in progress, but he has flashed at times throughout training camp, and is finding himself with more opportunities to see the field. He recently got some work with the starters, and has been part of some heavy safety sub package groupings.
The biggest thing coaches want to see with the young players is consistency.
“Once you get past that hurdle and say, ok, what other positions will he perform well in or what other packages can we put him in, and then try to give him a little bit more and see that expands from there,” Patricia said of Walker.
Walker played 24 snaps on defense and nine on special teams in his preseason debut in Oakland. He finished with three tackles and didn’t give up any receptions in coverage, per Pro Football Focus statistics.
“I think so far, again, one of the things from the other night that was great to see in the live game action was just his physical play come out,” Patricia said.
“I thought that was really good to see because you try to simulate the best you can in practice and you see some of the positions and the alignments and the angles, but for it show up in the game was good. So, will try to hopefully get a little bit more of that and see where it goes.”