Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker is ready to put 2020 behind him.
After solid showings in the first two seasons of his career, Walker took a backseat to veteran Duron Harmon and second-year player Will Harris. In fact, Walker played less than 40 snaps in seven of the Lions’ 16 games.
When Walker was on the field, his performance was up and down.
After receiving a 90.7 overall grade from Pro Football Focus in 2019, Walker earned a game grade of above 70 just twice in 2020. His coverage numbers were down, and he did not intercept a pass.
There were good moments, though, too: Eight tackles in back-to-back games to end the season, seven in the season opener against Chicago and a season-high 72.5 PFF pass-coverage grade at Carolina.
But, then there were the struggles for Walker, as well.
He suited up for just 13 snaps in a Week 15 loss to Tennessee, allowed 104 passing yards in Week 8 against Indianapolis and totaled just a single tackle in three separate games.
When Walker last spoke to the media, it was clear that he's ready to put the season behind him and to prove that it was a fluke.
“I feel like, yes, I am a better safety. And yes, I do need to get better at that new role that I have,” Walker said. “I feel like regardless of the role, I’ve gotta 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.”
Walker spent most of his first two seasons as a free safety, before transitioning to strong safety in 2020.
His best season, in 2019, came at free safety. During the '19 campaign, he logged 843 snaps, intercepted a pass, broke up seven passes and had a pass-coverage grade of 76, according to PFF.
“I feel like it was a year of learning for me -- a lot of learning,” Walker said, in reference to his 2020 season. “I definitely got a lot wiser, and there’s a lot of new things I just, you know, wasn’t used to and I had to adjust (to). Like I said, this year was a huge learning experience for me -- off the field and on the field. And so now, (with) 2021 approaching, I’m ready to process this year and take off the right way.”
This season will be big for Walker, as it’s the last year of his rookie contract. Walker is due for a spike in pay, after hitting an incentive for percentage of snaps played a year ago that will raise his base salary from $920,000 to $2.18 million.
Harmon is set to be a free agent this offseason, and his departure could open the door for Walker to once again play his natural position of free safety.
There’s also the addition of Aaron Glenn, the Lions' new defensive coordinator, who worked with a talented secondary for five years in New Orleans and is known for unlocking the potential of players.
With the Lions' defense looking to get younger and more athletic, don’t be surprised to see Walker reclaim an increased role.
With his added motivation and the team’s new regime, it’s fair to expect a bounce-back year from the Louisiana-Lafayette alum.
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