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DeMarcus Walker looks ready to prove he belongs with the Broncos — and in the NFL

The defensive end flashed as a rookie but looked lost last year. The new coaching staff in Denver could be just what he needs to get back on track.

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders Photo by Steve Nehf/The Denver Post via Getty Images

DeMarcus Walker is a guy I was actually anxious to see in the preseason after watching his film. A year ago he looked out of place on the Broncos’ defense, like he just didn’t belong. He seemed to be getting overwhelmed inside quite a bit when he tried to play the run. Quite frankly, last season Walker didn’t look like anything special at all.

But then I went back and looked at some film from his rookie year, and it seemed as if I was watching two totally different players. The Walker from 2017 had a lot of juice and he spent plenty of time playing in his opponent’s backfield. That guy was disruptive as hell. That guy was an ass kicker.

The Walker from last year was just kinda ... there. Not that he wasn’t playing hard, but that he just wasn’t making much happen. Of course he was only active for three games anyway. But even still, while he did make some plays, for the most part he just looked like he didn’t fit.

Well now that they have a new staff in place, I’m cautiously optimistic that head coach Vic Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell will be able to get Walker back on track and looking more like his rookie self. Since they took Walker with a second-round pick, I would think the Broncos will give him every opportunity to turn things around before they give up and cut bait.

Hopefully a fresh start with new coaches will be just what the doctor ordered for Walker’s game.

Walker wasn’t perfect as a rookie, but his film showed a guy who was able to consistently get penetration against the run and the pass. His technique still needed some work at times, but Walker was really quick with his hands and he never stopped working them.

Walker also had a knack for getting off blocks quickly. His whole game was about explosion and quickness. You might not want him taking on a lot of double-teams, but you would love to see him shooting off the ball and causing mayhem in the backfield. The way he got up the field was beneficial both when playing the run and rushing the passer.

I can’t speak to exactly what went wrong last season, but I will say that a guy doesn’t just up and lose that kind of ability to play the game. If the Broncos put him in position to shoot up the field gaps this year, or at least stunt laterally quite a bit, I believe Walker will reward them by making a lot of plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. His lateral quickness is top notch, and he can make lot of blockers whiff when he is stunting all over the place.

If he doesn’t wind up being a fit for the Broncos this season, he should at least fit on another team,

Of course, I don’t know exactly what Fangio and Donatell have planned for their defense this season, and that matters a lot when trying to imagine what kind of role Walker might have on the team. What I will say is that if not the Broncos, he could find another team that plays a style up front that is more in line with his skillset.

Whether in Denver or elsewhere, I expect Walker to be rushing the passer inside for somebody this season. And doing a damn good job of it, too.

I bring this up because Walker’s usage in the preseason so far has been a little weird to me. At the same time, he’s played pretty well so far, especially rushing the passer. Now, how they have rotated him in so far could be the Broncos giving him extending playing time to see for themselves what they have in Walker.

On the other hand, they could be trying to showcase Walker so that another team, or teams, who are in need of a three-technique might call with an interest in trading for him. Hell, it could have been both, to be honest.

But, again, I believe that Walker is a quality player and definitely the kind of interior pass rusher that a lot of teams covet.

I still believe DeMarcus Walker will have a breakout season because from what I’ve seen this preseason, he looks a lot more like he did as a rookie than his dismal season a year ago. He can still get after the quarterback, and that is something most teams will always have a need for. I think the Broncos could use his services, but if not them then another team.

No matter where he is playing this year, I believe Walker’s production is going to far exceed his combined 11 tackles and two sacks he has for his career so far.

Confidence level: Moderate