NASHVILLE – He is the one member of the Tennessee Titans’ 2019 draft class who did not make much of a contribution.
Of course, he never really got the chance.
Outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, a fifth-round selection out of Georgia was placed on injured reserve Aug. 10, two days after the preseason opener, in which he did not play. That meant the focus of his rookie season was rehabilitation.
Now it is the altered offseason that has kept him out of action – along with everyone else. NFL facilities have been closed and teams have been barred from formal workouts such as the organized team activities (OTAs) that normally take place this time of year. So, Walker’s wait continues.
“I think he’s been making the most of the situation in terms of learning in this virtual world that we’re in right now,” outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen said this week. “He’s asking good questions. He’s engaged.”
First-round pick Jeffery Simmons overcame a pre-draft knee injury and appeared in nine of the final 10 games, plus all three playoff contests and was third among the Titans’ defensive linemen in tackles. Second-round pick A.J. Brown was the only rookie wide receiver to top 1,000 receiving yards in 2019, and third-round choice Nate Davis started the final 15 games (postseason included) at right guard. Fourth-round pick Amani Hooker, a safety, played all 16 games and finished third on the team in special teams tackles. Linebacker David Long, a sixth-round choice, got more playing time late in the year and made more tackles in the playoffs (16) than he did in the regular season (15).
Simmons will play a bigger role this year following the trade of Jurrell Casey. Brown will start the season as the featured receiver. Davis is entrenched as a member of the offensive line. Hooker and Long will be prominent parts of the rotation at their respective positions, particularly the latter because Wesley Woodyard was not re-signed.
Then there is Walker.
The Titans still don’t know for sure what they have in him, but they are eager to find out. The hope is that he will beef up their pass rush, and the fact that he led Georgia with 11 tackles for loss, 7 1/2 sacks and 14 quarterback pressures as a senior gives them reason to believe he will do exactly that. They just have to see it.
“I think the big thing for him once we get back is just taking it from what we’re doing right now to the field, and continuing to develop all the techniques and fundamentals,” Bowen said. “But, I’m excited about him. I think football is important to him. I think he’s very anxious to get going and see where he falls in this thing and compete and try to earn a spot.”