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Erik Walden's Production and Reality Trump Perception

Erik Walden joined the Colts as an unrestricted free agent last year and played productively in the club’s 3-4 defense. Walden started 15 games and has a physical presence in Indianapolis. His 27 QB pressures topped the club in 2013, and he is poised for greater accomplishments in 2014.





INDIANAPOLIS –So many times the perception of an individual does not square with reality, and such is the case with the Colts' Erik Walden.

While the club still is establishing where it will go with its defense, Walden is a leading contributor to the building process.

Added last year on the first day of free agency, Walden brought a physical style the club thought would help as it tried to climb among the NFL's top defensive units.

Wanting the type of defense with which he coached in Baltimore, Chuck Pagano thinks Walden is a significant component to help Indianapolis reach that higher echelon.

"Erik's a good football player," said Pagano.  "I think back to some of the guys we had in Baltimore, the edge-setters.  When we went out and find outside linebackers, when we go looking for them in the draft or free agency, the first criteria is they have to be able to set the edge. 

"Erik did a great job of that.  He has pass rush capabilities.  As far as helping us up front and helping our front seven, I'm really pleased with Erik."

There were moments last year Indianapolis flourished defensively and others where a different level of consistency was sought, but Walden's play was a physical, high-motor style that the Colts want for 2014.

Counting the playoffs, Walden participated in 991 snaps.  Only three Colts were on the field more.  His tackle total ranked seventh, while Walden's seven tackles for loss were fourth (23.5, Robert Mathis; 9.0, Jerrell Freeman; 7.5, Cory Redding).

While Mathis' 21.5 sacks (19.5 in the regular season) topped the club, Walden had four, but his 27 QB pressures were 10 more than his nearest teammate.

Ryan Grigson noted the "ferocity" with which Walden played when he addressed the team's play after reaching the Divisional Playoffs.

Grigson's description fits Walden's production.

Measuring Walden among three other edge defenders – Michael Johnson, Paul Kruger and Connor Barwin – who played last year either under a franchise tag or after signing with a new team as an unrestricted free agent, Walden's regular-season numbers fared well.

According to Statspass, in 859 snaps, Walden had 45 tackles (five for losses), 3.0 sacks, 11.5 knockdowns, 10 hurries and one forced fumble.

Johnson played 922 snaps and had 56 tackles (five for losses), 3.5 sacks, 25 knockdowns, 6.0 hurries and two forced fumbles. 

Kruger had 887 snaps, with 47 tackles (five for losses), 4.5 sacks, 10 knockdowns, 8.5 hurries and two forced fumbles.

Barwin had 1,158 snaps, with 58 tackles (10 for losses), 5.0 sacks, 9.5 knockdowns, 7.0 hurries and one forced fumble.

Like Walden, Barwin jumped conferences in free agency.  Kruger stayed in the same division, while Johnson was franchised by Cincinnati.  All played with deals reportedly much more lucrative per year than did Walden.



Tackles (TFL)





Michael Johnson


56 (5.0)





Paul Kruger


47 (5.0)





Connor Barwin


58 (10.0)





Erik Walden


45 (5.0)





Walden was like the others in that he did not move from a 3-4 defense in joining a new team, and year two in the same system can bring growth even for veterans.

"(He's) a consistent player," said Greg Manusky.  "You don't have to worry about him.  He's going to do his job.  He's doing real well at it.  He's just a tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football player that I love."

The blue-collar nature came in focus against Denver.  With Indianapolis protecting a six-point, fourth-quarter lead that once had been 19, **Walden batted Peyton Manning's arm to force an interception (click here for video)**.  

The Colts pushed the lead to 39-30 with the takeaway and with three minutes left, Walden forced a fumble at the Indianapolis three to help preserve the 39-33 victory. 

"He was targeted (last year) pretty much before anyone simply because of his style of play," said Grigson. "We want warriors.  He is a true warrior, and they don't come any tougher.

"When you play as hard and with as much passion as Erik, good things are bound to happen on the field.  He sets the edge with as much pop and ferocity versus the run as I've ever seen, but he also has a very good blend of strength, quickness and relentlessness as a pass rusher.  We believe in Erik and his ability and where he's headed."

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