Credited with three tackles, one pass defensed and one forced fumble, Walden made two late plays to sway the outcome for the Colts, and it was the type of disruptive performance that Ryan Grigson envisioned early in the 2013 free agency process.
“He was targeted pretty much before anyone, even prior to this off-season simply because of his style of play,” said Grigson. “We want warriors. He is a true warrior, and they don’t come any tougher.”
Walden was on the hunt against Denver. After
The resulting safety helped incite a nine-point burst for Indianapolis to take the lead, and Walden helped cement the lead twice in the waning minutes with takeaways.
Walden batted Peyton Manning’s arm with 7:00 left in the game, causing an interception that led to a field goal that earned a nine-point lead. Moments later, he dislodged the ball from Ronnie Hillman at the Colts’ three, a turnover that helped preserve the victory.
His ability to thrive in the defense was no surprise to Grigson.
“When you play as hard and with as much passion as Erik does, good things are bound to happen on the field,” said Grigson. “He’s in a new place with new coaches, new coaching points and techniques. It takes a little time, but we feel Erik has done his job from day one.
“He sets the edge with as much pop and ferocity versus the run as I’ve ever seen. He also has a very good blend of strength, quickness and especially the relentlessness to continue to make strides as a pass rusher for us. We all believe in Erik and his ability and where he’s headed.”
A six-game starter on the strong side and opposite Robert Mathis at the rush position, Walden felt the time was right for such an outing.
“I knew it was time, especially on that stage,” said Walden. “You knew what a win like that would mean to this organization. I was making sure I held my end up and was doing my job to the best of my ability. The objective was to make plays.”
While the plays popped in a dramatic fashion, Walden’s progress has been a trending climb.
“He’s steady on his progress, never a step backward. “(It’s) always encouraging to see guys on the climb,” said linebacker coach Jeff FitzGerald. “He took great steps in this last game (with) the physical play that he (exhibited).
“He played more snaps than he’s played all year and handled it very well. He wants to be a contributing factor as much as he can, and he’s being just that. We’re really excited about him.”
With 20 tackles on the season, Walden knows it is about stacking performance upon performance.
“You have to prove yourself every day. You can never get complacent,” said Walden. “It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past. It’s about what you’ve done lately. That’s the mindset and approach I’ve taken. I’m doing everything I can to make an impact instead of just being another guy.”
Grigson was not seeking “a guy” when he landed Walden. He was looking for a component in Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 defense to man one side of the field, parlay talent into production and help the franchise distinguish itself on that side of the ball.
The warrior-like performance is Grigson’s target for the rest of the season.
“It’s what’s expected. That’s why he’s here and it’s his job,” said Grigson. “His disruptive style of play was the initial attraction from the beginning.
“He is just getting opportunities now to show he is a complete player as he develops within this system. The coaches are doing a great job with him and for a vet that has been around the block, he has been a sponge in terms of taking/accepting their coaching. We feel that not only speaks to Erik's professionalism but to his attitude as a true team guy.”