On Wednesday, all of us here at TP had the honor of chatting with Dolphins WR Brandon London live on the site for over an hour. One of the questions that Brandon was asked was which Dolphins player he felt would break out in 2009. London's answer was one many probably didn't expect. Said Brandon:
Good question. I think a guy who will really explode on the scene this year will be...OLB Eric Walden. He played only special teams last year but I like what I saw on film in the special teams meeting. He knows how to get to the ball and how to make plays. He came to us late but now that he has a whole offseason with us he's really making gains in the weight room and just from sitting down and talking with him all the time you can see that fire he has in himself to want to step up and be a "guy" for this team!
Well if you're like me, that response instantly put Erik Walden on your radar in terms of players to watch this offseason when OTAs and mini-camps roll around. So I figured we might as well get to know Walden a little bit better. That's my mission for this post.
Erik Walden, OLB
6'2, 245, 2nd year
Walden was a 6th round pick last year of the Dallas Cowboys coming out of Middle Tennessee State. In college, Walden was a standout defensive end, but did get some time at outside linebacker. When the Cowboys drafted him, though, Walden was instantly projected as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense.
At Middle Tennessee, Walden was a playmaker at the defensive end spot right from the beginning - playing in 10 games as a freshman (including 4 starts) and totaling 6 sacks, 8 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Over his 4 year career there, Erik played in 44 games, starting 34 of them, and tallied 22.5 sacks and 40 tackles for loss. He also had an interception and a safety.
He weighed in a 6'2, 237 at the 2008 Scouting Combine and ran a 4.75 40 - not great, but certainly good enough to play OLB. Here is a scouting report on Walden from last offseason, courtesy of SI.com:
POSITIVES: Aggressive defender who makes plays all over the field. Gets depth on drops, displays good range, and stays with assignments. Forceful up the field, plays with good leverage, and chases hard to make plays. Displays a good degree of quickness in his game as well as a closing burst of speed.
NEGATIVES: Marginally strong at the point and struggles against blocks. Limited skills making plays in reverse.
ANALYSIS: Walden possesses the size and speed to play at the next level. His ability to penetrate the line of scrimmage will get him consideration as a pass-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 system.
Walden's NFL career got off to a shaky start. He spent all of training camp with the Cowboys but was cut on August 30 despite being a solid special teams contributor duringthe preseason. However, it didn't take long for Walden to get claimed on waivers. The Chiefs claimed Walden the next day - and apparently, there were "a host of teams interested" in claiming Walden.
In KC, Walden was a special teams standout, playing in 9 games and registering 10 special teams tackles - 2nd most on the team. However, Walden was waived by KC on November 19, mainly because they had to make room for an additional running back on their roster. The Dolphins wasted no time, claiming Walden the very next day.
As a Dolphin, Erik Walden played in 6 games - all on special teams - and tallied 5 tackles. But his 2009 role could certainly be very different. In Dallas last offseason, there were reports that claimed Walden would "flash" ability at times. David Halprin, from SBN's Blogging The Boys, called Walden "athletically-gifted but totally raw and inexperienced" during the preseason last year. And he also openly questioned the decision of the Cowboys to release Walden.
It seems like Walden - for a guy who has done relatively little on the field outside of special teams - makes fans wherever he goes. Even in KC, he was popular as a special teamer. One KC fan even called Walden "a keeper." It's that kind of respect, from both fans and teammates, that instantly puts a player like Walden on your radar. And it'll be interesting to see how he develops this offseason.
So I will leave you with a video of Erik Walden's Pro-Day workout from last year: