Bringing back a series I had a lot of fun exploring last offseason. Every player wants to improve, to elevate his game in all areas from one season to the next. Understanding that, we’re going to isolate just one area, one faction of a player’s game. The biggest area for improvement.
L.T. Walton: Identify A Go-To Pass Rush Move
There’s two reasons why L.T. Walton has kicked inside to nose tackle this week with Javon Hargrave nursing a shoulder injury. One, he is strong against the run and improve dramatically there last year. That’s the good part. But it’s also because he’s a terrible pass rusher. Keith Butler kinda said as much in January.
“He’s doing a good job in the running game, he needs to do a little bit better in the passing game.”
Last year, he finished without a sack and per my charting, just half a pressure in 154 pass rushing chances. Ugly numbers. Part of that was from him being used as a contain rusher on blitzes, a common role for the backside end, but he also struggled in one-on-one opportunities. Tons of examples of that.
Lot of hand fight and energy versus the Buffalo Bills’ right guard but he isn’t able to shed him or get any sort of penetration.
Similar here against the left guard. Gets stuck, feet stop, offense easily wins.
One issue Walton is having, and Butler touched on it as part of his January comments, is not attacking half the man. He’s rushing down the middle of the guards, allowing them to set their base and anchor, instead of having to move laterally, maintain technique, and give up some space.
Walton also rarely shows any sort of move. He’s a hand fighter and does well to get leverage in the run game but it doesn’t always translate. No one is looking for Walton to be a dominant pass rusher. But he needs to have something in the tool box he can lean on when needed to at the very least, given the opposing linemen something to worry about and expect. Then you can counter off that if the player starts cheating and guessing.
Something like a club and swim would be in his wheelhouse. Walton’s got heavy hands, a good punch, and in the occasional moment of success, that’s how he wins. Like against the New York Giants’ left guard. Able to turn him.
Even then, his win happens too late in the rush. Walton is going to have to be an efficient pass rusher and make good use of the time he has. Because he’s not someone who has a high chance of winning on a given play. To his credit, he’s a smart pass rusher who generally keeps contain and gets his hand up in throwing lanes, so he’s working hard to maximize his positive traits.
If he can even touch Ricardo Mathews’ numbers from last year, 4.5 pressures and a sack, and you can consider it a successful year from him in that regard.