Mike Walker (Getty Images)
The Jaguars have been looking for a big play wide receiver ever since Jimmy Smith retired following the 2005 season. To be perfectly honest, the Jaguars have been searching for just a solid receiver since then.
It appears that they now have their possession guy in former first-round pick Matt Jones, who has 21 receptions for 244 yards and one touchdown.
The team is trying to cultivate another one of their draft picks, this one being former UCF Knight, Mike Walker. Walker’s Jaguars career started off with fantastic expectations as he dazzled onlookers during his first minicamp by catching everything thrown his way, and running precise routes. Unfortunately for both Walker and the team, he regressed during his first training camp, and ultimately spent his rookie season on the injured reserve.
In year two, Walker has had much less pressure on him as he’s not expected to be a savior. With high priced free agent Jerry Porter, along with the resurrection of Matt Jones and over the middle tough guy Reggie Williams, Walker has had an opportunity to ease into his role.
“He is another one of those receivers in our group of receivers,” quarterback David Garrard told reporters. “I have always said that I do not always have to have a go-to-guy, but Matt (Jones) has turned into one of those guys. But they are going to cover him with two guys, I have to be able to go to other people and Mike has done a great job whenever the ball is thrown to him, making those catches.”
Walker didn’t see the success that many expected from him in training camp this season. He struggled in preseason with drops and some believed that he wouldn’t be part of the Jaguars roster. Fortunately, his quarterback believed in him.
“I have always told him even when he was having a hard time earlier on during training camp when he was having drops, I would tell him to keep working for me because I am going to keep throwing you the ball. I think the more and more the ball gets in your hands, the more confidence you’ll have and then you will start catching those balls and he is. We need him to come along because he is a great weapon and a great talent. I think the more and more he can make those catches, the more and more you will see how explosive he can be.”
Walker has not only been a reliable target over the past two weeks, but he has impressed on special teams. Walker played a big role in the Jaguars victory in Indianapolis as he caught an eight-yard pass that set up kicker Josh Scobee’s game-winning 51-yard field goal, and he sealed the game with a special teams tackle on the game’s final kickoff. Del Rio believes that Walker is gaining confidence.
“I think more (confidence) maybe on Mike’s part because he’s played in a couple games now and he’s probably gained a little confidence from having played in some big moments for us,” Del Rio said. “But the reason Mike was up was because of his special teams ability and what he did the week before on special teams. That’s what got him active last week.”
Mike Walker has helped make 2007 free agent acquisition Dennis Northcutt somewhat obsolete. Northcutt was inactive for the first time as a Jaguar last Sunday, and it appears that Walker has more to offer his team.
“The bottom line is Mike Walker, who made a game-saving tackle last week as we pulled ahead in Indy, has become a guy that special-teams wise gives us a little something, and from a number standpoint we wanted to get a look at Jerry Porter and that was just how the numbers shook out…we make our choices, activate who we think gives us the best chance to win and then we go,” Del Rio explained to reporters.
Mike Walker has just six receptions for 54 yards in his NFL career, but he has played a big role in both Jaguars victories this season. Look for the former UCF star to be a fixture in the Jaguars wide receiving rotation from this point on.
Charlie Bernstein is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Media Interactive, covering multiple teams in the National Football League, NCAA, and National Basketball Association. Charlie is a regular syndicated contributor to FoxSports and Sirius NFL Radio, and has been featured on the NFL Network. Charlie is also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Feel free to contact him -HERE- with questions or comments.