DeMarcus Walker Mini-Series Part I: The Go-To Move
Updated: Apr 1, 2020
DeMarcus Walker has not seen the field very much since he entered the league in 2017.
The low usage is disappointing for a second round pick—especially one that was so productive in college, racking up 25 sacks and 33.5 TFLs in his final two seasons at Florida St. You don't accumulate those kind of numbers unless you have some talent for getting into opposing teams' backfields. So what happened? Why has Walker struggled to get on the field and make an impact in the NFL? Do the skills he relied on in college not translate to the pros?
The Broncos coaching staff is certainly partly to blame, as an ill-fated attempt to convert him to stand-up linebacker derailed his rookie season. But even with that speed bump Walker has consistently shown the same disruptive ability that convinced the Broncos to select him in the second round.
Parts I and II of this mini-series take a look at the impressive skills that Walker showcased in college and that are the hallmarks of his game. Part III explores Walker's performance in his limited opportunities in the NFL and asks the question: what went wrong?
Walker's Go-To Move: The Swim
Walker's best pass-rush move is the swim, or arm-over. His college tape is littered with successful swim moves. Here's a basic example of what it looks like (watch for Walker's right arm to "swim" over the top of the LT).
The move works because Walker is quick—both quick off the ball and quick through the swim move itself. Notice how he explodes through the move in the clip below, working from the RT's outside hip to inside before he can recover.
The above two clips show Walker rushing from the outside but the move is equally devastating when rushing from the interior. He's so explosive off the ball that guards and centers have to react to the swim essentially as they're getting into their pass sets. They often fail and get beat right off the bat. (Lined up over LG in the clip below).
If you rewatch all of the above clips you'll further notice that the linemen he's beating (both tackles and guards) barely even touch him. Walker knows exactly what he's trying to accomplish and executes the move to perfection.
Attack the outside shoulder
Swat with the inside hand
Explode to the inside and swim
He can do this from right to left and left to right, and when it works as intended opposing linemen can hardly get their hands on him and are left grasping at air.
But it can also work when a lineman is able to set up his block. Walker is so familiar with the mechanics of the move that he can generate leverage even through contact. As an illustration of his comfort level and mastery of the swim, here he is beating back to back blockers with it—through contact—on the same play (LDE).
Unlike in the previous clips, the RT (71) is able to get his hands on Walker before he starts the swim. It's no longer possible for Walker to win with quickness—he's already locked up and can't do his signature attack-outside-swim-inside move. But he's so comfortable with the mechanics of the arm-over that it doesn't matter. He wins a sliver of leverage with his left hand then capitalizes with the swim.
Walker also has counters if the swim doesn't get him completely free. Here, he attempts to swim inside on the RG, who commits to stopping the move. In doing so the guard rebalances his weight to his left—and Walker takes advantage by shoving him in that direction to gain a free path to the QB.
Clearly, Walker has mastered the swim move. In fact, his pass-rush game is built around it—it's not only how he gets most of his penetration, but it sets up the other attacks in his arsenal. To see how, continue on to part II of the DeMarcus Walker Mini-Series.