His team may have lost 22-13 on Thursday night, but third-year Saints defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker bedeviled the Baltimore Ravens plenty in New Orleans’ final exhibition of the 2014 preseason at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Walker batted down three passes for incompletions, two of which were on third downs and forced the Ravens (4-0) to settle for field goals. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker had to kick a field goal from 27 yards away in the second quarter on one of those occasions and a 32-yarder in the third quarter on the other.
It capped off a big preseason in which Walker topped the Saints (3-1) in pass defenses with four. None of his teammates had more than two, not even defensive backs, who usually have many more opportunities to make such plays on thrown balls.
Walker also led the Saints in takedowns behind the line of scrimmage with four this preseason. He ranked among team leaders with 12 solo tackles (four on Thursday), and he had one quarterback sack in the Saints’ exhibitions.
The third-year player and native of New Iberia credited his production to the experience he’s naturally accumulated with the Saints ever since the club signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa in 2012.
“I’m going to keep learning — the more I play, the more years I’m in the league, I just get smarter and smarter,” said Walker, who didn’t appear in a game in his rookie year and then missed nine contests in 2013 with a hurt knee. “I don’t think it’s more anything physical — it’s just mental.”
With Saturday’s deadline for the Saints to reduce their roster from 75 players to 53 looming, the 6-foot-3, 294-pound Walker at this point is a virtual lock to provide depth on a defensive line led by Pro Bowl end Cameron Jordan, third-year man Akiem Hicks and veteran nose tackle Brodrick Bunkley. He’ll certainly add to the 12 regular-season tackles (five solo) and one quarterback sack he has in his career if he can stay healthy.
“That’s what it’s all about — putting myself on film and showing I can contribute to the team,” Walker said. “That’s all I’m worried about.”