Talent, Injuries & Excavation
The signing of UDFA DT Charles Walker was greeted with little fanfare. I get it. The phrase “undrafted free agent defensive tackle” has the sex appeal of a cactus. Perhaps you'd rather have an egg toss with a hand grenade or eat an old shoe than think about him. You're missing out (and in need of a better diet).
Charles Walker is a fascinating prospect. At 6'2”, 310 the Oklahoma product has noticeable talent on the field. He's surprisingly agile for his size. He's shown flashes of impressive power. Walker even had the awareness to deflect four passes in the four games played of his junior season. Those are fun, exciting qualities in a modern defensive tackle. I'm really excited to see what he'll do in training camp.
If he's such a great signing, then why did he go undrafted?
Following the third concussion of his career, Walker sat out the remainder the 2016 season. In fact, he left the team entirely in order to focus on the draft. This was considered problematic for a couple of reasons.
First, he has an established history of concussions. Concussions, as the NFL has known for decades, are a serious injury and are more likely to happen again each time you get one.
Second, the coaching staff hated his guts for it. Mike Stoops, Walker's defensive coordinator at OU, came out publicly and said: “Quitting on your teammates is hard to take as a coach. That's everything we stand for – our commitment to one another and, for whatever reason, that wasn't there for him.”
It's a terrible situation to be in for a player. Walker had questionable health and limited tape. His best chance to get drafted would have come from good recommendations within the program. Instead they crapped all over him and no one took him. Lucky us.
Concussions aren't all that common for defensive tackles. I suspect that Walker's injury history shouldn't be a drag on his career. The only real concern is whether Walker's concussions will impact his recently diagnosed depression.
In terms of “quitting” on the team? Fuck Mike Stoops. I have no problem with Walker leaving the team to stay healthy for the draft. College football doesn't pay and bowl games are worthless in the long run. It's ironic and sad that being healthy for the draft made the coaching staff bad mouth him out of it.
Upon further review (wink) maybe Walker owes them a thank you. He got to choose his team instead of the other way around. He correctly chose the Eagles.
Walker fits the Eagles scheme. Jim Schwartz notoriously likes to rush without blitzing. Walker's mixture of size, quickness, and awareness could prove to be quite disruptive in the backfield. Alongside Fletcher Cox, Walker will have many opportunities to showcase his talents in one on one situations.
The Eagles have also been excellent with developing defensive talent. Bennie Logan was a third rounder. Beau Allen was drafted in the seventh. Cedric Thornton was undrafted. Damion Square, who was an undrafted Eagle in 2013- still plays in the NFL. It has been done before and could easily happen again in Philadelphia.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.