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It wasn’t a classic welcome to the NFL moment because those simply don’t happen until the regular-season begins, and last night’s Hall Of Fame Game for rookie Travon Walker was merely a notch above a practice.
But it was good.
It was encouraging.
It proved Walker belongs. And it suggested the Jacksonville Jaguars and Walker are on the right course after the club drafted him No. 1 overall out of Georgia in April.
“I thought he did some really good things,” Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. “There were some early good, quick, pass rushes in there. He’s very disruptive. He showed his length, his athleticism, his power. He’s going to be fun to watch all season.”
Walker provided one of the few feel-good performances the Jaguars had in a preseason loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. This exhibition game didn’t prove the Jaguars are going to be bad or the Raiders are going to be good.
It proved the Raiders simply have a deeper roster and are further along with their reserves than the Jaguars.
It also proved Walker is going to be interesting to watch.
Walker picked up his first sack — albeit for preseason stat purposes only — which also added a tackle for loss and quarterback hit to his list of accomplishments.
And the manner the Jaguars used Walker, as a standup edge rushing linebacker, showed he’s left behind his days of playing all along the defensive line as well as linebacker in coverage, which is how Georgia deployed him.
Walker is in Jacksonville primarily to rush the passer. And he overmatched Vegas backup left tackle Brandon Parker from the first play forward, including on that initial NFL sack.
“It was definitely an exciting feeling,” Walker said of his sack. “My first one but plenty more to come.”
Walker actually might have been more disruptive than the statistics suggest because he tipped Stidham’s first pass of the game into the air. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Walker was called for a roughing the passer penalty on that one and the Jaguars’ secondary actually allowed the pass that thus looked like a punt to be caught.
“I’m just like, ‘Man I got to get there,” Walker thought after that play. “I’m too close to not get this sack or finish on the quarterback.”
Pederson, ever the coach, expects Walker will clean up some of his technique and timing issues. And that makes sense as long as the player is still attacking at ludicrous speed.
“I think there are timing issues with hitting quarterbacks, when you can hit quarterbacks, and it’s going to come from just watching it, learning from it,” Pederson said. “That’s something you never try to just slow down his athleticism and power that way, but he’ll learn from it and be better.”
The Jaguars need better from their No. 1 overall selection to, well, be better themselves. But Walker fully expects to deliver and is already hinting there will be sack celebrations in the regular season.
“I might,” he said, “have a little something for y’all.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero