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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — This is not what the Broncos envisioned when they spent a second-round pick on DeMarcus Walker in 2017.
After ranking second in the nation in sacks his senior year in college, Walker has produced just one sack in two years as a pro. Even worse, he’s not even getting the chance to produce more.
After playing sparingly in 10 games last season, Walker has been inactive in all but three contests in 2018. And the path to playing time is murky, at best.
Back in late November, when it was announced that Shaq Barrett would be down multiple weeks with a hip flexor injury, it began to look like Walker may get some run.
“Obviously Shane Ray is next up, so yeah, he’s going to be the third rusher and we’ll see how the game goes,” head coach Vance Joseph said at the time. “We’ll have three guys for that position on gameday. We’ve got [DE] DeMarcus Walker who’s available also and plays some end for us on our sub downs. We’ve got some options there.”
Since that comment, Walker has been inactive each week.
To make things worse, even last Saturday, when Shane Ray was inactive, Walker still couldn’t get a gameday jersey.
On Wednesday, Joseph was asked about the former highly-touted prospect.
“It’s tough—it’s just numbers,” he explained of the lack of playing time. “‘D-Walk’ has gotten so much better. He’s kept his weight. He’s about 285 right now so he’s grown in that area. It’s a tough room. We’ve got six guys in that room, only five guys dress and that’s five pretty good players. It’s pure numbers for him. He’s ready to play, he’s itching to play and he’s in my office every week asking to play. It’s just pure numbers, that’s all.”
The five players in front of Walker on the defensive line include Derek Wolfe, Adam Gotsis, Domata Peko, Shelby Harris and Zach Kerr, all guys who are having strong seasons. The truth is, though, there’s no rule against activating six defensive lineman for a game. If Walker was bringing value, even just on third downs, Denver could find a way to get him out there.
But even now, with two meaningless games remaining on the schedule, the head coach wouldn’t commit to playing time for Walker.
“We’ll see,” Joseph said. “Every gameplan is different and we’re going to try to obviously play some of our young guys, but we’re trying to win games also. We’re dressing the best guys to help us win these next two football games.”
Will Walker fall into that category? Only time will tell, but neglecting to play him would be a clear statement about how the team views his future, not to mention a missed opportunity.