Make-or-break season for Detroit Lions Tracy Walker

Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have several questions surrounding many of their positional groups going into the 2021 NFL regular season. That’s likely the main reason many pundits aren’t expecting a lot from the Motor City this year.

One of the biggest areas of concern is along the backend of their secondary at the safety position. Despite spending two recent third-round selections to acquire safeties Tracy Walker and Will Harris in back-to-back years (2018, 2019), the future of the position remains unclear.

So much so that the Lions traded the New England Patriots last year for veteran Duron Harmon and he ended up being a 16-game starter in Detroit. Harmon was a free agent this offseason and signed with the Atlanta Falcons.

After the firings of both general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia last November, the new regime has made several changes to the front office, coaching staff, and roster. But the talent level at the safety position has remained relatively unaddressed outside of the signing of Dean Marlowe in free agency.

Marlowe was primarily a backup during his three-year stint with the Buffalo Bills, racking up a total of seven starts over that span. And unless the Lions intend to shift the 6-foot-3 rookie defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu to safety, the position was ignored during the 2021 NFL Draft as well.

It appears the Lions are hoping for a career resurgence from Walker entering the final year of his rookie deal in Detroit. Here’s what new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn told about what they expect out of him.

"“Well first and foremost, it’s our job as coaches to not have a down Tracy, to have the up Tracy. So, we have to continue to teach, and he has to learn and understand exactly what we expect of him. That was the number one thing, the expectations.”"

Glenn would go on to say that Walker should be excited to play in his scheme due to the success players at the position have found while he was the defensive backs coach for the New Orleans Saints. The examples being, Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams, who racked up a combined six interceptions last season for the Saints.

Walker looked like one of the brightest young safeties in the NFL just a couple of seasons ago, earning himself an impressive 89.8 overall grade by Pro Football Focus as a rookie. Despite leading the team with 103 total tackles in his second season, that grade has suffered a steep decline over the past two years ending with a disappointing 2020 campaign where he started just seven games and posted an overall PFF grade of 51.0.

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If Tracy Walker is unable to rebound in the new defensive scheme in Detroit, it seems likely he’ll be allowed to hit free agency next offseason. So this is very much a make-or-break season for the young safety who once seemed on the edge of stardom in Motown.