NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Talent isn't the only factor determining the success of a prospect in his rookie season. Landing in an ideal situation that offers a chance to contribute early is an underrated part of the equation.
Tennessee Titans outside linebacker D'Andre Walker has an excellent opportunity to showcase his talent this season as a rookie under head coach Mike Vrabel, who has already made an effort to work with Walker one-on-one. The two spent a lot of time together during the individual portion of rookie minicamp earlier this month.
"I am excited any time I get to work with those guys one-on-one to teach them the things that we are trying to do. We started little by little to see what he could handle," Vrabel said about Walker.
In Walker's mind, being able to work with a head coach who played his position in the NFL is a bonus.
"It's great. He played my position and was a great player," Walker said. "I hear it from everybody that's around me. I was hoping I got a chance to work with him and have him teach me a few things. I'm glad it was able to happen. It was good, and I feel like I understand what he was trying to present to me."
GM Jon Robinson said the team targeted Walker all along and was glad he was still on the board on Day 3. The staff has taken notice of how the rookie has been engaged and answering questions in defensive meetings along with position group meetings with outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen. Walker is eager to take what he’s learned in minicamp and the classroom and apply it during OTAs.
“I am learning everything a lot easier than in college, because in college you have classes and other things to worry about," Walker said. "But now it’s football 24/7. I learn both in the classroom and on the field. Just to see it plenty of times and get it in your brain before you come out here and do it, learn from the mistakes. ... They presented it piece by piece and it’s working up to things that may be harder later on down the road."
Walker is off to a fast start, which is particularly good news considering his path to meaningful snaps in the outside linebacker rotation is pretty clear. The four outside linebackers on the depth chart behind starters Harold Landry and Cameron Wake have a combined six career sacks, so the Titans could use more pressure off the edge.
While at Georgia, Walker showed himself to be a high-motor player who is relentless in pursuit of the quarterback. Several of his 7.5 sacks last season came when chasing down quarterbacks who were looking to extend plays. That kind of effort will quickly win over his new coaches.
Physical play fits the theme that Vrabel and Robinson are building in Nashville. Walker made his presence felt in college on run defense, routinely chasing down ball carriers on running plays going away from him. He did an outstanding job setting the edge, funneling running plays back inside for the other linebackers. His strong hands have a way of shocking offensive linemen when he strikes them.
"[Walker] has good strength, good speed-to-power, can set the edge and has lateral agility to work along the line of scrimmage. ... He has good length," Robinson said. "He's not a really tall player, but he plays long."
"We think Walker has value on all three downs."