Not too long ago, the Detroit Lions appeared to have a pair of promising young players at safety in Will Harris and Tracy Walker to build the unit around. Add in veterans Duron Harmon and Jayron Kearse to fill it out with experience and maybe a special teamer like C.J. Moore and the team had a serviceable unit with some depth questions but clear starters to enter the 2020 season. So comfortable was the team with its choices that it let play-everywhere utility man Tavon Wilson leave in free agency for Indianapolis. On the dawn of a new year, we now know how mistaken our perception of the situation at safety was.
In just the first month of actual games, second-year player Will Harris looked miserable on the field and bewildered fans were confused by the sparse usage of Tracy Walker in packages rather than a starting role. By the end of a December to Forget, Walker was at least back on the field as a defensive regular but perhaps only because injuries and the dismissal of previously-suspended veteran Jayron Kearse forced the team’s hand.
On Thursday, Walker spoke with the media on a video chat and reflected on the tough year he had on and off the field. As both MLive’s Kyle Meinke and Justin Rogers with the Detroit News reported, Walker came straight out and took responsibility for his disappointing season. Though he believes the team moving him out of the free safety role into a strong/box safety role made it harder for him to be successful this year, he did not hold it out as an excuse for poor play. Per Meinke:
“I feel like, yes, I am a better free safety, and yes, I still need to get better at the new role that I have,” Walker said. “I feel like regardless of the role, I got to be great at it, you know? And I feel like when the coaches saw something that I could do, I feel like I could do the job, I just didn’t get the job done as good as I should have this year. So I feel like at the end of the day, I have to be better than that.
The former third-round pick from the 2018 draft promised he would work to “bounce back” and play better in whatever role the team decides to use him in. We’ve certainly seen how changes in usage and system can wreck the production of a Pro Bowl-level player at the safety position, so the incoming defensive staff and system (whoever they may be) for 2021 will be crucial to how the team thinks about its future with Walker and Harris.
Never made sense to anyone, really https://t.co/mH3VoHrJ1b— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) December 31, 2020
This is especially key for Walker, who will be entering his final rookie contract year. Will the team express confidence in the youngster and extend him at a low price or will the disappointment of 2020 turn next year into a prove-it year? Remember that in just five months, we could very well be talking about a newly-drafted safety as the future at the position.
Now, on to the rest of today’s Notes:
- Per NFL insider Ian Rapoport, the COVID sidelining of FitzMagic has led the Dolphins to re-sign former Lions quarterback Jake Rudock to their 53-man gameday roster.
- National analyst Ross Tucker asked if the Texans are the worst team by win-loss record to have elite quarterback play (here, from Deshaun Watson in 2020). Aaron Schatz from Football Outsiders answered the call by posting a ranked list of best QB performances by record combinations (i.e. he gives the best QB performance among all teams that went 4-12, among all teams that went 5-11, etc.) . Guess which Lions quarterback made it to the top spot of a category by virtue of that “by record” qualifier?
I’ll forever love you for this. Eternally grateful— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) December 31, 2020
Once again, our Mike Payton wants you all to remember that QB wins is not a legitimate stat.
- A fun Quintez Cephus story from wide receivers coach Robert Prince:
Lions receivers coach Robert Prince said he was celebrating Quintez Cephus' slow 40 time at the combine because he knew that would help Cephus fall to Detroit. Knew Cephus could play based on the tape.— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) December 31, 2020
Kinda crazy. @VinnyBonsignore told us an almost identical story about the Rams after Cooper Kupp's 4.62 at the Combine.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) December 31, 2020
That's on our latest podcast here: https://t.co/EfZ01zhgUh https://t.co/nSlz9Iv6Tx
- From MLive’s Ben Raven, Adrian Peterson only seems to be interested in coming back to the Lions next season if they are not in rebuilding mode.
- Fox 2’s Dan Miller held a 1-on-1 video conference interview with defensive end Austin Bryant. The full video of the chat is on the station’s web page.
- This is a super fun find by our own fearless leader Jeremy Reisman: