When it comes evaluating just how young players will make their impact on the team, Matt Patricia says it’s all about their consistency.
Give a player a position or package to try out—don’t ask him to do too much, but see how he handles it. If he makes it over that hurdle and can do that job day in and day out, see what else he can handle.
And that’s been his strategy when it comes to rookie defensive back Tracy Walker as the player begins to find out where he fits in with the team.
The third-round pick caught the coach’s attention during last Friday’s game against the Oakland Raiders when Patricia said he saw the 6-foot-1, 206-pound rookie’s physical play come out.
“You try to simulate it the best you can in practice. You see some of the positions the alignments the angles but for it to show up in a game was good,” Patricia said during a media presser Wednesday.
Walker ended Friday’s game with three tackles, playing 24 snaps on defense and nine on special teams according to Pro Football Focus. The 23 year old said he still doesn’t know what his role on the Lions will be, but he’s trying to get better at everything, every day.
“Right now I’m just trying to earn me a role on this team, I’m just going wherever they tell me to go,” Walker told a pack of reporters Wednesday.
And the vets in the secondary have been a key part of that progress, like Glover Quin, who was spotted handing out some words of wisdom to the rookie safety.
“That’s a guy who’s so unselfish and a guy who’s going to give everything he has from a knowledge standpoint, technical standpoint and just try to help the younger players get better, which in turn helps the team,” Patricia said.
And what a mentor to have. Quin’s a guy who led the NFL in interceptions in 2014 and started 132 games straight—the third longest active streak in the league. Just last year alone, the nine-year NFL veteran and Pro Bowler tallied 84 total tackles, six passes defended, four forced fumbles, three interceptions and a partridge in a pear tree.
Tavon Wilson. Quandre Diggs. Coach said he’s seen a bunch of the guys giving advice to the rookies—keep your eyes here during this play, this is the alignment over here, watch for this.
Those are some good leaders too. Wilson, another veteran safety, racked up 55 total tackles, two passes defended, a forced fumble and an interception in 10 games last year before finishing the season on injured reserve. A Swiss Army Knife of a player, Diggs has shown strength at slot cornerback and stepped in for Wilson as safety when he got hurt. Last year, Diggs totaled 54 total tackles, nine passes defended, three interceptions and a forced fumble.
“Once you get players themselves self-coaching or self-correcting, however you want to look at it, then the progress of those guys, it just goes up tremendously, credit to those players,” Patricia said.
As for Walker’s take on GQ’s guidance: “Being able to go and ask questions and see his insight on things is definitely great for me because it’s definitely going to help me develop my game,” he said.
Between the examples of good leadership Patricia mentioned and the rest of the Lions’ talented secondary, it’s SAFE to say Walker’s in good hands.