Erik Walden didn’t look like much of a player when the Green Bay Packers picked him up earlier this season.
The linebacker had been waived by the Miami Dolphins and when the Packers signed him, joined his third team in his fourth NFL season. Walden had a grand total of 23 tackles — all on special teams — before signing with the Packers.
Not exactly a guy you’d be comfortable with in the starting lineup, but that’s exactly the position the Packers found themselves in when Frank Zombo went down with a sprained knee in the week 14 loss to Detroit.
Walden started the Packers’ final three regular season games and their wild card win over Philadelphia. Surprisingly, he’s played fairly well, a fact highlighted by a 12-tackle, three-sack performance in week 17 that nabbed him a defensive player of the week award.
In fact, there have been some whispers Walden is actually a better player than Zombo. He may even be better than Brad Jones, who held down the same position before going on injured reserve after week seven and thrusting Zombo into the starting lineup.
This wouldn’t be the first time this season the Packers found a better player sitting on their bench after a starter got injured — Desmond Bishop has made Nick Barnett a complete afterthought at inside linebacker.
Jones started five games, Zombo eight and Walden four, including the playoff game, for the Packers, this season.
The sample data is small, but here’s what it tells us. Note that we only looked at starts and not overall statistics, which would be skewed towards Jones and Zombo.
Jones had 25 tackles, no sacks and no forced fumbles in his five starts. That’s an average of five tackles per game and no game-changing plays.
Zombo has 30 tackles in his eight starts, three sacks and one forced fumble, an average of 3.75 tackles and .5 game-changing plays per game.
In four starts, Walden has 23 tackles and five game-changing plays. That’s 5.75 tackles and 1.25 game-changing plays per game.
Things can change at any time, of course. Walden could go out and lay an egg this weekend and shift these averages back in favor of someone else, but it’s pretty clear the guy off the street has outperformed his predecessors as a starter at outside linebacker.
The sample size here is so small I am not sure anything conclusive can really be said. I will add, however, that Jones looked pretty good last season after he took over for Kampman.
Go and let walden do his thing. He’s held up with the pressure I think he may be the real deal as you said monty
It will be tough sledding against the Falcons who have arguably the best offensive line in football. They even shut down Matthews last game. I have a feeling they can’t do it twice though.
Falcons will be facing a different unit. Raji has been playing lights out and the rest of our DL is finally healthy. Walden is a legit pass rusing presence opposite Matthews, so they won’t be able to shift protection and double team matthews as much as they did.
capers…all capers doing
Agreed Vijay. Capers should be up for coach of the year. Too bad an assistant can’t win it.
Go Walden Go!
MM called a decent game last week, but he gets too effing conservative late in the game. I mean holy shit…everytime we get a lead in the 4th quarter, no matter the size, our offensive game plan is to not fuck up. We know…everyone knows what’s coming. Run-Run-Pass-Punt. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to maybe mix up your play-calling at that point? You have a QB that arguably makes better decisions than just about any QB in the league and yet you harness him and put your D on the field.
Our last two wins have ended with the defense on the field with their backs pushed up to the goal line. Although there’s not a defense in the league I’d rather have defending our goal line, you have to wonder at what point is the cookie jar going to be empty.
I want to see us play with the same offensive aggression that we show when we’re down by 2 scores…when we’re UP 2 scores. Remember the Cards playoff game last year? Duh, of course you do. Remember the abandon and aggression we showed to storm back? We NEVER show offensive swagger (maybe the Giants game being the exception) except when we’re behind.
Fucking go out there and steamroll them boys…just like the Giants game.
Totally agree man, couldnt have said it better. The lack of offensive swagger comes from McCarthy, we need better and more unpredictable playcalling.
Very quietly, Walden played a very good game last week at Philly.
Contemplating some carnage at the Walden Pond. This guy is transcendent like a mofo!
Walden Pond > Revis Island
Walden is a better passrusher than Zombo – BUT he’s a little “light in the pants” against the run. That’s why he wasn’t playing in the first place. He has a hard time holding his ground against the edge rushes right at him. THIS is where ATL’s gameplan is going: Turner right in Walden’s grill. Here’s hopin he can anchor….
i hope this means poppinga is out now that we have some depth at olb. that guys is all talk every year and never shows anything to back it up. ur no clay matthews, brady, as much as u think you are.
Ya, this guy is very good. He got his shot and took the most of it, he also has great speed coming from the outside.
All the more reason we don’t need 8 rookies next year. Bundle those TT and go for extreme quality- since extremely great quantity will be returning from the IR
Obviously you don’t look up stats very well. Zombo has 4 sacks and 2 FFs. Also, look at Walden and he had a monster game against the Bears, and has been quiet since.