Originally written on Thoughts from the Dark Side  |  Last updated 3/25/13

ATLANTA - 2009: Vance Walker of the Atlanta Falcons poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by NFL Photos)
The Raiders most recent free agent addition was, Vance Walker, a former 7th round DT taken by Atlanta in the 2009 draft.  Walker, a long shot to make the roster as a 7th round pick, not only made the roster but worked his way up the Falcons’ depth chart culminating in 9 starts last season after never having more than 2 starts in the 3 years prior. The Raiders will give him the chance to earn a starting position in 2013 in his first year with the Silver and Black. A look at his tape found some positives and some opportunities for 25 year old. Positives: First, I think it should be said that I really like Walker’s motor.  He goes until the whistle every play.  He’s also very versatile.  He played at both DT spots, right and left, plus other spots on the line. He has a large body which allows him to dig into the ground and hold his place.  He is listed at 6’2, 304 pounds which puts him on the large side of a 3 technique DT but on the low end of a nose tackle.  He did, however, have reps at both those positions. His best work, however, was at the 1 technique in a 4-3 (If all this talk of techniques confuses you, click here). At the 1 technique I felt he showed up well, consistently getting doubled by the center and one of the guards and freeing up the ends and 3 technique on the line with him to get the glory while he did the dirty work. Walker demonstrates decent lateral movement for a guy his size.  He isn’t great – he isn’t a playmaker when forced to move laterally – but he can hold his own and clean up if the running back cuts in his direction. Opportunities: Walker is mostly known as a run stopping DT. That’s likely because he’s at his best when he can dig in and push back against the OT’s.  He’s hardly ever pushed off his set mark when that happens. However, when he’s asked to move he suffers from a lack of explosion.  He had a lot of “almost” plays. He would have had a sack, had a stuff for a loss had he just had a little more explosion off his mark. He had decent although not great lateral movement but the longer the movement was sustained the more likelihood he would fall down. This lack of explosion is also why he isn’t great as a pass rusher.  Because he doesn’t have a good first step, he doesn’t get up and into the OG or C as fast as you’d like.  A fast first step can get a DT into the line before they have a chance to set. Instead, Walker engages with the OL almost every time. In fact in the games I watched I never saw him split or pass an offensive linemen to get into the backfield and get to the QB quickly.  His pass rush is to get up off the snap and into his man and then physically push his man back to collapse the pocket.  If he has a good 3 technique next to him or some good Ends around him, however, they’ll be able to mask this with him and he can push offensive players back. Walker also lacks any real pass rush moves.  He simply engages and pushes most every play. He has some struggles disengaging.  It’s something he can continue to work on and improve, but there are times where he is slow to disengage and attack a different avenue. Conclusion: Walker is a solid piece which is all the Raiders signed him to be.  He’s a big body in the middle and has the ability to play in multiple positions depending on the teams needs and alignment. He’s not going to be Haloti Ngata but the Raiders don’t need him to be.  If he can play a solid role in a defensive rotation, continue to improve his technique and be productive on his snaps, he’ll be well worth the $2,000,000 the Raiders are paying him for 2013. For more news and  thoughts on the Raiders throughout the day, follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews
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