INDIANAPOLIS – The question might have been a bit cliché this time of year but
Before the question “What are you looking to improve on in 2014?” could finish Walden was already mid-answer with some inflection in his voice.
“There’s no doubt, sacks have got to go up,” Walden says of his 3.0 sacks in 2013.
In sitting down with his coaches following Walden’s first season in Indianapolis, a specific goal was emphasized.
Walden knows playing opposite sack-leader
The single teams will again be coming often for Walden in 2014 and he’s ready to make the most of those opportunities.
“It’s something simple as far as my footwork,” Walden says of improving his sack numbers.
“We all know if you can get off that ball, it makes it a lot easier. If I can do that consistently, it will take me to that upper echelon.”
When the Colts signed Walden during the 2013 offseason he was brought in, first and foremost, to be an edge setter in the 3-4 defense.
Trying to quantify how successful an edge rusher is can be a bit difficult but earlier this offseason head coach Chuck Pagano assessed Walden’s first season with the Colts.
“He’s a great edge setter in the run game,” Pagano said of Walden. “That’s the number one criteria for the position that he plays, number two is pass rush. He’s more then a capable pass rusher. The numbers weren’t what he wanted or expected but he affected a lot of plays. You may not have a lot of sack numbers like Robert did on the other side but he affects a lot of those plays. He affects plays that other guys make.”
According to Pro Football Focus, Mathis had 15 more sacks and 18 more quarterback hurries than Walden last season.
Walden played particularly well late in the season and now he’s hoping to improve on the 3-sack mark that he’s reached each of the last four seasons.
Ryan Grigson talked last week about how the Colts have added parts that fit into their 3-4 defensesive scheme.
In the front seven, Grigson says the Colts “have guys now that know what we’re trying to accomplish and have a real respect for stopping the run…”
Walden can be thrown into that group and when the 6-3, 250-pound outside linebacker returned for the Colts offseason program, it was time to add to his repertoire.
Getting off the snap quicker is the focus for Walden this offseason and he’s hoping with that comes a rise in game changing plays next season.
“Like (Pagano) says, take care of the little things and the big things will happen,” Walden says of his offseason drive.
“That’s what I’m emphasizing on, footwork and technique.”