Jaguars HC Doug Pederson was impressed with OLB Travon Walker‘s rookie season and was happy the team selected him with the first overall pick.
“Everything that we saw in him in the draft process, we’re so thankful that we drafted him, he’s a part of our football team,” Pederson said, via Sports Illustrated.
Pederson said the next step for Walker is to take on a leadership role within the team.
“I just met with him a few minutes ago, and he’s excited for this offseason. He’s excited for his future. He understands he can get better and he can help us in different ways. He wants to take that next step in a leadership role, and I think that’s important for him to do.”
Jaguars GM Trent Baalke downplayed Walker’s pedestrian sack totals and said that he was able to impact the game in a number of different ways.
“I think Travon, like all these rookies, it was a season of growth. You’re always looking at young players, and usually that step between year one and year two is the biggest jump that these guys have as players, but I think he did a lot of nice things,” Baalke said. “Like I talked to him a week ago, that stat number that everybody has in their mind of sacks is, in a lot of ways, very overvalued. There’s a lot of ways to influence a game, and I think Travon, you saw him do it, whether it be the run or the pass, he had an impact this year, and it’s only going to get better from here.”
Pederson said the task for the coaching staff this offseason is to find a way to better utilize Walker’s skillset.
“That’s the next step, to be a dominant edge rusher and even an interior rusher. We just find ways to utilize his strengths, and when he comes back, he’ll be ready to go and eager to get back out on the field,” Pederson said.
Walker expressed a desire to remain as a pass rusher next year. He was utilized in a variety of different ways, but enjoys getting after the quarterback the most.
“I definitely want to still play my same role. It was a growing year. This year was basically just getting a feel for things. There’s plenty more to come. I will definitely still be rushing the passer for sure, just at a different level next year,” Walker said.
Walker placed an emphasis on improving his knowledge of the game this offseason.
“I always knew I could be a dominant player without question. It’s just a fact of me knowing the ins and outs of football. You really have to know the game of football once you are playing against such savvy guys and a lot of these veterans.”
Regarding the Texans’ search for its next head coach, owner Cal McNair said he is “very happy” with how things are going and must adhere to “a lot of rules” on interviews. 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans is notably considered a top candidate for the job, and Houston must wait until after Sunday’s NFC Championship game to host him for a second interview.
“Very happy,” said McNair, via Aaron Wilson. “There’s a lot of rules and things we need to follow, and we totally embrace those. It’s been a lot of fun, having interviews with the strong candidate list that we’ve had. We get to to ask them questions. They get to ask us questions. It’s been enlightening and fun and we’re looking forward to picking the right candidate for Houston.”
McNair said that they are looking for stability at head coach after having Lovie Smith in 2022 and David Culley in 2021.
“That’s exactly right,” McNair said. “Picking the right coach for the long term is what we’re after, not necessarily a timeline. There are a lot of rules we follow with the NFL. There are some guys still playing that we can’t be talking to right now and we’ll talk to them at the appropriate time and all of that will come together and we’ll come out with a great selection.”
Texans VP Hannah McNair, who is also taking part in the interview process, said she feels its a great privilege to take part in their hunt for a head coach.
“It’s a privilege I don’t take lightly,” Hannah McNair said. “It’s really incredible to be trusted with that. There aren’t many people that get to sit in on these interviews. So, for him (Cal McNair) to bring me in on that, I feel really excited and honored.”
Titans’ impending free agent LB David Long said that he would love to re-sign with Tennessee but it is not his decision in the end.
“Of course I’d love to stay here,” Long said, via Jim Wyatt of the team’s official site. “I think I have done my part as far as any time I’m on the field, that’s what I can control – I think I did my part. Anything other than that I am going to leave it up to God and my agent and stuff like that. But that’s not my decision. I feel like I took care of business on the field, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Long said it was difficult to miss the final five games of the regular season due to a hamstring injury but felt he was unable to perform up to his personal standards.
“I play at a certain level, and for me to play at that level I have to be a certain way physically and I just wasn’t,” Long said. “It was very tough. You put the work in all offseason, hopefully to end the season healthy. But the ball didn’t roll my way this year. I feel like the time I was on the field I gave it my all so I can’t really be mad.”
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