1) Introduction: Erik Walden, a third-year player out of Middle Tennessee State, played in 28 career games before being signed by the Green Bay Packers. Drafted in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, he was claimed by Kansas City after being released by Dallas in the final August roster cutdown. Miami would eventually claim him after a short stint with the Chiefs. In what would be an omen of things to come, the Dolphins cut Walden a week prior to their historic Special Teams meltdown against the New England Patriots. He was part of the Packers’ “mass signing” in October that included Diyral Briggs, Matt Wilhelm, and Howard Green.
Height: 6-2 Weight: 238 lbs.
3) Expectations coming into the season: No expectations for Walden coming into the season, since he was picked up after Week 7; however, as a mid-season signing, he was projected to work behind Frank Zombo on the OLB depth chart. (Brad Jones had been placed on IR the week he was signed.) Additionally, his reputation as arguably the best special teams player from the Miami Dolphins increased his prospects in that phase of the game for the Packers.
4) Highlights / Lowlights: The biggest game of the season for Erik Walden was also the biggest of his NFL career. In a must-win Week 17 showdown against the Chicago Bears, Walden could have easily been named the defensive MVP of the game. He recorded 11 solo tackles and three sacks, one of which was an amazing delayed blitz on a replayed third-and-long. Walden seemed to be everywhere on the field making plays. Unfortunately, his next outing against the Bears in the NFC Championship game was cut short by an ankle injury. It ended up costing him the opportunity to play in Super Bowl XLV.
5) Contributions to the overall team success: Until Zombo’s knee injury made Walden the de facto starter at ROLB, he received limited rotations since he was still learning the defense. Even as a starter, Walden split some of his time with Robert Francois. It wasn’t until the Week 17 game that he finally displayed a flash of great play. Walden was very assignment-sure, didn’t draw any penalties, and missed just one tackle.
6) Contributions during the end-of-season 6-game run: Since Walden wasn’t even starting until the Week 15 game against New England, his greatest contributions obviously came during the final stretch of the season. The final regulation game against his Chicago, as stated above, was his brightest moment. Walden also had a decent game against the Eagles in the Wild Card round, racking up 5 solo tackles, one sack, and a forced fumble. Unfortunately, he seemed to disappear after that, and ended up quietly leaving the NFC Championship game with an ankle sprain.
Season Report Card:
(B-) Level of expectations met during the season
(C-) Contributions to team’s overall success
(B-) Contributions to team’s success during the playoff run (last 6 games)
Overall Grade for the Year: (C)