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Broncos rookie DeMarcus Walker could benefit from misfortune at outside linebacker

July 30, 2017 Updated: July 31, 2017 at 1:28 pm
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The first day of training camp for rookie DeMarcus Walker was a rough one. But the days after, he has impressed.

On July 27, Walker ended practice early due to a heat issue. But the practice after, his teammates and coaches have raved about his potential.

"(Walker) is going to make an impact," said fifth-year cornerback Chris Harris Jr.

And Walker could possibly make an impact for Denver at multiple positions.

Walker played defensive end at Florida State. But with the Broncos he has practiced at end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker - the spot where the team suddenly needs depth.

This offseason has not been nice to Denver's outside linebacker position. Projected starter Shane Ray suffered a torn ligament in his wrist during the second day of practice, sidelining him for six to eight weeks. On top of that, Shaquil Barrett, who would be the next man up after Ray, suffered a serious hip injury in late May that put him on the shelf for two to three months and possibly could last longer.

"Our vision for DeMarcus was to be a sub-rusher," coach Vance Joseph said. "Obviously, with our outside linebacker numbers being down, he is working outside."

Typically, with every rookie, there is a steep learning curve transitioning to the NFL. And that curve can be even steeper if a player has to learn a new position, like Walker.

However, Joseph does not believe Walker has that much of an uphill battle to learn the outside linebacker position.

"It's not," Joseph said on how hard it is to learn assignment football. "Really, for (Walker), it's defensive end, which is what he played in college. And get as close as we can scheme him where he is an end in his mind."

Walker agrees with Joseph's mindset.

"It's not tough because I am used to it," Walker said on the transition from inside to outside pass rushing. "It's pretty good. Just got to learn a few more things."

Walker has an opportunity to learn the new spot from one of the best in the league: Von Miller.

During practice, Walker receives input from Miller and defensive tackle Derek Wolfe. The veterans tells the rookie what he can do tactically and how can translate those skills to inside and outside pass rushing.

When they do give him pointers, Walker keeps his mouth shut and soaks it all in.

"It's a blessing, to be honest with you," Walker said about having Miller as a mentor. "Like I tell everybody, he is the best for a reason. I can always ask him questions and all that stuff. I mean, he always gives me his input."

While he has been gaining tips from Miller, early Sunday morning Walker received some tips from former Bronco, DeMarcus Ware. Walker described his text from Ware as an "even better blessing".

"He looks a lot more comfortable than you might think," said defensive coordinator Joe Woods. It's just something we are playing around with. He has to get a feel for how to play the NFL game. But he is an unique player."

Although Walker will see time at outside linebacker, expect him to be used as that sub-rusher on third down as the Broncos originally intended.

But no matter what position Walker plays, he just wants to contribute.

"Whatever coach asks me to do, I will do it," Walker said.

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