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Eagles Draft Picks: Joe Walker is fast and can be a force on special teams

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An insider's perspective on one of the Eagles' seventh round picks from the 2016 NFL Draft: Oregon linebacker Joe Walker.

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The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Oregon Ducks linebacker Joe Walker with their final selection (No. 251 overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft. We briefly profiled Walker last week, but I thought it would be useful to acquire an insider's insight as well. In order to learn more about the Eagles' new linebacker, I reached out to Oregon SB Nation blog Addicted To Quack. Both Alex Rider (@AJR_425) and Matt Sexton (@MattSex7) were kind enough to answer questions about Walker.

1) What are his strengths?

"To me what I really like about Joe is his ability to shed the block. He has excellent hand skills that he uses to his advantage to get off a block. Another thing that works in his favor is his tackling skill. The Ducks had more than their fair share of problems tackling last season but Joe was a good as they came in that category.

I also really like his speed that he plays with as well. I think what got Joe drafted was the numbers that he put up at his pro day in Eugene. Running a 4.56 40 yard dash is a great time for a linebacker and clearly that speed was viewed on tape. If you want to see that speed in action, look no further than his 99 yard fumble return for a touchdown against Utah. That play also highlights Walker's awareness as many had already given up on that play."

2) What are his weaknesses?

"In my opinion, Walker is still much too small to play middle linebacker in the NFL and doesn't necessarily have the skill set to play outside linebacker. He might have to be more of a special package type player as although he was good shedding college blocks I'm not sure he has the size to shed the blocks of NFL guards and tackles.

Sometimes he also plays a little too loose, which gets him out of his gaps and completely washed out of plays all together. Although an overall good tackler, this mentality sometimes puts him out of position for the best tackle allowing the ball carrier to break loose."


3) How much did Walker mean to Oregon’s defense?

"In a very porous Oregon defense last season, Walker led the way by being the best tackler. His 87 tackles even beat out the 7th pick DeForest Buckner and his 83 tackles. What was impressive to me about Walker was the steady improvement he made each of his three years at Oregon. With little expectations in 2013, the junior college transfer came in and ended up being the most important reserve linebacker on the team. in 2014 Walker made even more improvement, as he started 10 of 15 games, meaning that in the process he forced returning starters Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick to hit the reserves. Then of course during last season, Walker and Buckner took over as the two most important pieces of the Oregon defense. With an incredibly young secondary it was up to those two to lead the way. Obviously things didn't necessarily go the planned way on defense, but those two still had great years with solid numbers."

4) To what extent was Walker a leader?

"During his first season at Oregon in 2013, I was on the coaching staff as a defensive undergraduate assistant. At that time I could tell there was going to be something special about this kid. He came in right away and earned the respect of everyone on that defense. At the time, that wasn't a huge issue as long term guys like Taylor Hart and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a strong hold on that side of things. But, he carried this leadership into the next year when the Ducks lost so many of those key seniors. The defense glued together nicely and was a part of the team that reached that College Football Playoff Championship. He's a guy that earns the respect of others through both his work ethic and his motivational words, he's definitely a good one."

5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?

"I think Walker's work ethic alone will keep him around for a while. In the immediate future look for him to be a force on special teams. He did just about everything in this category for Oregon as he was on just about every special team. He excels in punt protection and both sides of the kickoff and kick return game and I see him seeing the field in this way right off the bat.

He also has the chance to be a nickel linebacker, the role that he took over his first year at Oregon and continued to play throughout. He has the speed and ability to guard tight ends and is a good fit in the screen game defense as he can snake through the pulling offensive linemen. I'm sure that is the plan that Philadelphia at least has for him in the immediate future."

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1) What are his strengths?

"Walker has a nose for the football and great vision to allow him to find the hole. This led to a team-leading 87 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries, taking one back for a touchdown. An unheralded guy out of high school and a late bloomer coming to Oregon from junior college, he really started to play with reckless abandon as he got more comfortable his junior year and continued to play that way from then on. Was surprisingly adept as a linebacker dropping back into coverage, and fights off blocks well to trip up runners in the backfield. Is more athletic and explosive than he looks and is a thunderous tackler.  Produced good pro days numbers which certainly made scouts give him a second look (4.56 40, 37'4'' vert, 10'4" broad jump)."

2) What are his weaknesses?

"He's been labeled an inconsistent tackler and does have trouble at times staying home to put himself in a good position to bring someone down. Walker also never took over a game, leading the team in tackles just twice. Can struggle maintaining proper pad level in trying to shed off blockers, as well as coming at backs too high and arm tackling too often."

3) How much did Walker mean to Oregon’s defense?

"He was a cog in Oregon's defense the last few years and a success story. He started coming off the bench his sophomore year while coming into his own and parlayed that into most improved honors his junior season. You knew what you were getting with Walker, as he had a tackle in every game his junior year and was just as consistent his senior year. Played virtually every game in his three years at Oregon.

4) To what extent was Walker a leader?

"Walker is humble and uncomfortable in the spotlight, preferring to lead by example, which was never lost on his teammates. He's respected for coming in and displaying a strong work ethic while fighting for playing time, a message taken early on by younger teammates."

5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?

"He wasn't expected to be drafted (late 7th or UDFA) but his motor combined with his athleticism and size should allow him to make the team and have an impact on special teams in the immediate future. Could develop into a productive nickel linebacker."

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Thanks again to Alex and Matt. Make sure to check out Addicted To Quack.