The Jacksonville Jaguars sat a host of starters in Thursday's 27-11 Hall of Fame Game loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, but No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker suited up and looked the part in his brief action.
"Man, I thought he did some really good things," Jags head coach Doug Pederson said after the game. "There was some early, good, quick pass rushes in there. He was very disruptive. Showed his length, his athleticism, his power. He's going to be fun to watch, I think, all season."
The 6-foot-5 Georgia product displayed his power and ability to win on the edge right off the bat. On the first play from scrimmage, Walker bull-rushed Raiders offensive tackle Brandon Parker -- who is vying for a starting spot -- and hit quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Walker was flagged on the play, but it was a sign that the edge rusher can cause havoc.
"I think there's timing issues," Pederson said of the penalty. "Of quarterbacks, hitting quarterbacks and when you can hit quarterbacks and all this kind of stuff. It's just gonna come from just watching it and learning from it. That's something, you never try to slow down his athleticism, power, that way. But he'll learn from it and be better."
Later, Walker sealed the edge and got off a block as Stidham stepped up in the pocket for his first preseason sack -- one of the Jags' five QB takedowns on the night.
"I hadn’t hit an opponent in a while," Walker said. "It was definitely an exciting feeling. It was my first one, but plenty more to come."
It's only the first game of the preseason, but Walker displayed the traits the Jaguars saw to make him the top selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. After moving around a lot at Georgia, the rookie is focusing exclusively on being an edge rusher early in his career. If the start is any indication, he'll make a good pairing with Josh Allen on a revamped Jags defense.
"You know, there's always room for improvement, but just ready to get back to work," Walker told NFL Network's Steve Wyche after the game. "Work on some mistakes that I made and just grow from there. Now I got a feel of it and see how it's really gonna be, so now I just want to continue to play fast and continue to make plays to help my team.
"I have to say just come into work and get one percent better every day. As long as we get 1 percent better every day, we can't get no worse."
The Jags' depth issues showed with 21 players sitting out the first preseason game, but Walker's play is a positive sign that there are foundational building blocks in Jacksonville that portend a promising future.
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