1) Introduction: Packers outside linebacker Erik Walden came into the 2012 training camp with slim odds of staying on the roster. The team had just drafted Nick Perry with their first round pick and Perry would surely get every opportunity to start opposite Clay Matthews. The team also saw undrafted rookie Dezman Moses emerge durin camp and it looked lik Walden was all but out the door. When it became apparent that the Packers would need some depth as Perry developed, they decided to hang onto Walden. When Perry went down early in the season and Moses wasn’t quite ready to be an every-down player, Walden became the starter at LOLB as he had been in 2011.
Erik Lashawn Walden
- Age: 27
- Born: 8/21/1985 in Dublin, GA
- Height: 6’02”
- Weight: 250
- College: Middle Tennessee State
- Rookie Year: 2008
- NFL Experience: 5 years
3) Expectations coming into the season: Walden’s initial expectations were low as his ability to stay on the roster was in question from day one of the Packers offseason program. When he was kept after training camp, Walden was there to serve as a veteran backup. With Frank Zombo on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Packers needed the depth at this vital position in its defense. When Perry went down early in the season, Walden became the starter and was expected to solidify the left side of the pass rush/run defense and improve over his 2011 performance. Walden moved to the left side when Matthews moved back to the right side.
4) Player’s highlights/low-lights: Walden had very few highlights in 2012 and unfortunately showcased why he was supposed to be no more than a backup and depth at the OLB position. His best game came in week five against the Indianapolis Colts. It wasn’t a flashy game for Walden, but he did post three quarterback hurries. He was effective in his pass coverage as well. That was just one of three weeks in which Walden scored in the positive according to Pro Football Focus. In the week nine game against the Arizona Cardinals, Walden had a key interception that kept momentum on the Packers’ side until they eventually ran away with that game. Walden’s low lights were weeks six and beyond. If that seems harsh, consider that Pro Football Focus had Walden graded lower than every other outside linebacker in the NFL in 2012. He was largely ineffective and showed no improvement over 2011. He was a complete non-factor in the two playoff games and was manhandled badly in the divisional playoff game against the 49ers.
5) Player’s contribution to the overall team success: Walden did remain healthy and his only missed game came in week one when he was serving a suspension. In the two games that Walden graded out best, the Packers lost. One of those games was the week three game at Seattle. We all know how that ended. The other was the game at Indianapolis. Other than being an 11th body on the field, Walden did little else to help the Packers get back to a deep playoff run and re-establish the effective pass rush. He was often unable to set the edge in run defense and was rarely able to make his way to the quarterback in a pure pass rush.
6) Player’s contributions in the playoffs: Walden did next to nothing during the postseason that is noteworthy on the positive side. Against an elevated level of competition, Walden was, time and again, pushed out of the way and completely out of position to make a play. This was most evident in the divisional round game at San Francisco when he barely laid a hand on 9ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick all night. Most of that ineffectiveness was because he continued to crash down in run support instead of reading the ball which was often not in the running back’s hands. This left way too much running room for Kaepernick.
Season Report Card:
(D+) Level of expectations met during the season
(D+) Contributions to team’s overall success.
(F) Contributions to team during the playoffs
Overall Grade: D——————
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: