Walker could be Den­ver de­fense’s next Dumervil, with ad­vice from Miller

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

There’s a hole in the Den­ver de­fense. The Bron­cos are look­ing at rookie DeMar­cus Walker to fill it. Can a down line­man from Florida State drafted in the sec­ond round to be a pass-rush spe­cial­ist now stand up and help solve the team’s cri­sis at out­side line­backer?

“What­ever I can do to con­trib­ute to this team and win a Su­per Bowl and what­ever a coach asks me to do, I do,” Walker said.

So what did Walker do Sun­day? He went to school, and showed maybe there’s a lit­tle Elvis Dumervil in him.

Walker took a crash course in the nu­ances of play­ing out­side line­backer at the NFL level. Von Miller, the best in the busi­ness, gave him pri­vate tu­to­ri­als on the field through­out prac­tice.

“It’s a bless­ing, to be hon­est with you. He’s the best for a rea­son,” Walker said.

DeMar­cus Ware, still serv­ing as the Yoda of the Den­ver de­fense in re­tire­ment, also has reached out to Walker via text mes­sage.

Ball don’t lie. And play­ers rec­og­nize tal­ent. If Walker couldn’t play, would Miller and Ware be coach­ing him up? Maybe Walker is more than the sit­u­a­tional pass rusher the Bron­cos drafted him to be.

While all eyes at train­ing camp were fixed on the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Trevor Siemian and Pax­ton Lynch, so shaky in a padded prac­tice that coach Vance Joseph ex­pressed blunt dis­sat­is­fac­tion with both young quar­ter­backs, maybe the real news is how the role for Walker keeps ex­pand­ing. Teams get in­ven­tive when look­ing for ways to get tal­ent on the field.

If Walker is able to earn sig­nif­i­cant play­ing time at out­side line­backer in ad­di­tion to be­ing a third-down con­trib­u­tor as a de­fen­sive line­man, he could be

as es­sen­tial to Den­ver’s suc­cess in 2017 as firstround pick Gar­rett Bolles, counted on to win the job as the start­ing left tackle in a re­built of­fen­sive line.

Miller is the best player in the NFL this side of Tom Brady. But even the Von­ster can­not play line­backer on both sides of the line at the same time. So he fre­quently got in the ear of Walker dur­ing prac­tice, of­fer­ing tricks of the trade at out­side line­backer, where Den­ver has been bit hard by the in­jury bug.

“In­stead of be­ing a fresh­man who’s try­ing to fig­ure things out, I’m now more like a se­nior in high school. And I’ve got to act like it,” said Miller, who has em­braced his role as a team leader with the same pas­sion he brings to sack­ing the quar­ter­back or “Danc­ing With the Stars.”

Add the torn wrist liga­ment of Shane Ray on top of a hip in­jury ex­pected to keep Shaquil Bar­rett on the shelf un­til some­time in Septem­ber, and out­side line­backer has mor­phed from one of the Bron­cos’ strong­est po­si­tions to one of those un­ex­pected chal­lenges en­coun­tered by every NFL team al­most every year.

The Bron­cos drafted Walker as a 6-foot-4, 280pound de­fen­sive end. His style of play, how­ever, dif­fers sig­nif­i­cantly from the skill set of Ma­lik Jack­son, the down line­man des­per­ately missed by the Bron­cos af­ter he de­parted as a free agent to Jack­sonville. For Walker to make a ma­jor im­pact in Den­ver, can he be a Swiss Army knife more like Dumervil or Karl Meck­len­burg?

As a pro prospect, Walker was con­demned in scout­ing lingo as a tweener, too small against the run to be an every-down player on the in­side and not ath­letic enough to bring con­sis­tent pres­sure from the edge. He wants to be on the field as more than an in­te­rior pass rusher.

Can Walker be­come more than a one-trick pony for the Bron­cos? Here’s his chance.

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