Detroit Lions: Is it Tracy Walker’s time for a breakout year?

Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /

While there may not be a lot to get excited about when it comes to the Detroit Lions defense in 2020, one young safety is poised to break out this season.

Detroit Lions safety Tracy Walker has seen the video of his cousin and former high school teammate, Ahmaud Arbery, being hunted and killed more than 100 times.

With each new viewing of the video, Walker was rightfully left more and more angry watching the death of a friend that he used to do everything with, from playing Call of Duty: Zombies to playing basketball in the driveway until it got cold.

Walker is determined to make sure that his dear friend isn’t forgotten, as he already wears Arbery’s high school number, No. 21, and he plans to write Arbery’s initials on his cleats when the NFL resumes. He also is planning to wear Arbery’s T-shirts underneath his jersey during games as another way to remember his cousin.

Here’s what Walker recently told Michael Rothstein of ESPN.

"“Man, he did not deserve that. He did not deserve that. And, you know, God has a plan for everybody, man, but, you know, it’s tough. It is. That’s why I watched it so many times. I couldn’t grasp it. It’s such a gruesome video, you want to know why.”"

The anger Walker possesses may fuel him to have the greatest season of his young NFL career. In only 13 games last season, he still managed to lead the team with 103 tackles.

That’s rare for any young safety, especially one in his second season. Six of those were tackles for loss, as Walker also racked up eight passes defended to go along with an interception and a forced fumble.

Gary Davenport of Bleacher Report called Walker one of the best kept secrets in football in a recent piece, saying that Walker would be well on his way to being a household name if he played for a better team or in a bigger market.

Rated highly with a 73.5 rating from Pro Football Focus, Walker is viewed by football nerds as one of the rising safeties in the NFL who could become an All-Pro if he can stay healthy and improve in pass coverage.

Walker has a chance to be one of the Lions’ biggest playmakers in 2020. The Lions can use all the playmakers they can get on the defensive side, as they allowed the 31st-most yards per game at 400.4 yards a contest in 2019, and allowed the 26th-most points per game at 26.4 points a game.

Detroit’s young secondary may go through some inevitable growing pains, with rookie Jeff Okudah and sophomore Amani Oruwariye likely to see a lot of time on the field. Having Walker as arguably the best tackler on the team to help them on missed assignments should allow the Lions defense to take more risks to force more turnovers from opposing offenses.

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Walker’s impressive sophomore campaign combined with the newfound motivation to play in honor of his cousin’s tragic death could lead to a breakout season from Walker, as if he can manage to improve, he may be a dark horse Pro Bowl candidate.