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CANTON, Ohio — Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Travon Walker wasted no time making an impact in his first NFL game.
Walker, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft, played just two series in his team’s 27-11 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday night, but he recorded a sack and had another pressure in what he says was just a glimpse of what he will eventually be able to do consistently for years.
“It was definitely exciting, just being out there on an NFL roster, out there on an NFL team playing with other NFL players,” Walker said. “Something that I will always remember [will be] my first snap.”
That’s when Walker first showcased some of the reasons the Jaguars chose to take him over more proven pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who went second to the Detroit Lions. He rushed Raiders left tackle Brandon Parker and got to quarterback Jarrett Stidham when he released the ball. Unfortunately, Walker got his hand up Stidham’s neck and was flagged for screwing the ball.
Head coach Doug Pederson called it one of the many teaching moments Walker will experience as a rookie.
“There are timing problems when you [rush] quarterbacks and hitting quarterbacks and when you can beat quarterbacks and all that stuff and it just comes from watching it, learning from it,” Pederson said. “You never try to slow down his athleticism and power like that. but he will learn from it and do better.”
He apparently learned quite quickly. Walker — who said he was disappointed he wasn’t able to get the sack on his first snap — got Stidham on the Raiders’ next possession, this time grabbing Stidham around his midsection and pulling him to the ground for a 3-yard loss.
“It was definitely an exciting feeling,” Walker said. “It was my first [sack] but, like, a lot more to eat.”
That’s what the Jaguars are hoping for, and it’s one of the reasons they drafted Walker, a 6-foot-5, 272-pound former Georgia defensive lineman. Walker had just 9.5 sacks in his three seasons with the Bulldogs, but he played mostly inside. The Jaguars have moved him to outside linebacker. They feel he can thrive there because of his size, length, speed and power.
Walker had been impressive one-on-one in training camp, but his lack of experience as an outside pass rusher has left him lacking in pass rush moves and counter moves. Those are things he’ll need to develop over his first few seasons, but for now, he’ll rely on his speed and power as much as he can.
At least it was effective against the Raiders.
“I thought he did some really good things,” Pedersen said. “There were some early good, quick passes in there. He’s very disruptive. He showed his length, athleticism, his power. He’s going to be fun to watch all season.”