Before the season started, Jersey Al posted this about Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden. Jersey Al said the following about Walden early in the post:
Erik Walden can flat out rush the passer. When Walden is turned loose to pursue the red meat known as NFL quarterbacks, he performs like a hungry lion.
I wasn’t as high on Walden as Al, but I wasn’t ready to boot him off the team like most everyone else. After getting arrested Thanksgiving Eve last season, Walden’s play fell off a cliff. He was decent before the arrest, though.
More importantly, the Packers decided to re-sign Walden in the offseason. Ted Thompson and the Packers see something in Walden. Why would they bother bringing back an average to below-average talent with a domestic assault arrest on his record? You can easily find average to below-average guys without arrest records off the street if you need to.
But the Packers obviously think Walden has the talent to be more than just average.
Thompson knows a lot more about his players than I do. If he thinks a guy like Walden is worth bringing back, then there’s talent there, folks.
Walden and Perry vs. the Bears
Walden showed why he was given another opportunity on Thursday against the Bears. Cutler was the hunk of red meat, and Walden was the hungry lion (who had gone a week without a good meal after being suspended week one).
Nick Perry was drafted in the first round to help Clay Matthews get after quarterbacks on the edge. On Thursday, it was Walden who teamed with Matthews to blow up the Bears offensive line. Walden finished with 34 snaps. Perry had 19.
Now that doesn’t mean Perry is done for. It’s only one game. But Walden was far and away the better player on Thursday.
So far Perry appears to only have one tool in his pass-rushing toolbox: a hammer. Perry puts his head down and tries to bull-rush his way into the backfield almost every play. He needs to work on using his hands more to disengage from his blocker before making his move.
I’m also worried that mobile quarterbacks will take advantage of Perry blindly charging upfield by side-stepping him, breaking containment and making plays outside the pocket.
Walden’s toolbox has more tools than Perry’s. On Thursday, Walden showed off a little power, some shake-and-bake type of moves, and even came hard on a few delayed blitzes that caught the Bears flat-footed.
Walden doesn’t have the raw power of Perry, but he’s more explosive. Both player attack their blocker, but Walden looks quicker doing it, and he has more of a plan.
At least that’s what I saw after comparing the two on Thursday.
Perry has plenty of time to add the necessary tools to his toolbox. He’s never played standing up before and I expect it to be a while before he’s totally comfortable.
But the Packers can’t afford to be overly patient with a rookie when they have Super Bowl on their minds. If Walden is playing better than Perry, Walden will be on the field. That was the case on Thursday.
They say if you have two quarterbacks you have none. I don’t think that rule necessarily applies to outside linebackers.
I expect the Packers to keep mixing and matching Perry and Walden (and Dezman Moses if necessary) to push both players and take advantage of matchups. I can see Perry being too strong for some tackles and I can see Walden coming in against tackles that aren’t very light on their feet.
Whether it’s Walden or Perry (or Moses), if the Packers get the kind of play opposite of Matthews that they got on Thursday, this defense is in for a major turnaround.
This didn’t really fit anywhere in my post, but I found it funny.
One one of Matthews’ sacks in the second quarter, the Bears double-teamed Walden and tried to block Matthews one-on-one. Walden played well on Thursday, but he shouldn’t be drawing double teams away from Matthews! Not sure what the Bears were thinking there, but hopefully other teams attempt the same thing.——————