ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos mandated DeMarcus Walker bulk up this offseason. That was a big weight off his mind.
As a rookie last season, Walker slimmed down to about 238 pounds in order to be more of an outside pass rushing threat. This season, he’s back at 280 and playing inside along the defensive line.
He feels this should tip the scales back in his favor. After all, it’s a similar weight from when he flourished at Florida State and became a second-round pick.
“Knowing what weight to play at, what I’m playing – smooth sailing,” Walker said. “Just do my job and get better every day.”
Walker began slimming down as a contingency plan when linebacker Shane Ray suffered a left wrist injury in training camp last July. Denver’s defense features a 3-4 scheme and it’s predicated on a multitude of pass rushers to assist Von Miller.
The 23-year-old Walker struggled at times with his new assignment and played in just 10 games with one sack (Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes in the season finale). It was a difficult transition as his role sometimes required him to help out in coverage, which he hadn’t done since his sophomore year in college.
“I had to refresh my brain and my body,” Walker said. “I wasn’t the best at it. But I can do it.”
Now, he’s on more solid ground. These days, he heads into the defensive line room with the likes of Derek Wolfe (285 pounds), Adam Gotsis (282), Shelby Harris (290), Domata Peko (325) and Zach Kerr (334).
“It’s kind of funny, they still try to call me light,” Walker said. “It’s all fun and games.”
He bulked up over the last few months by eating four to five meals a day. Going back to Florida and dining on his mom’s cooking helped as well.
As it turns out, he’s not a bad cook himself. His specialties?
“Love lobster and shrimp,” he said. “Love seafood.”
He’s listed as a defensive end on the roster. But ask him what position he plays and he grins.
“Athlete,” he said. “Just say athlete.”
Among his roles during the workouts is helping rookie pass rusher Bradley Chubb get up to speed. He’s learning plenty from Chubb as well when they play side by side.
“Just how to take advantage of the offensive line. I think we’re undefeated right now,” Walker cracked of the two of them getting the best of their counterparts in offseason practice.
While at Florida State, Walker had 164 tackles, 28 1/2 sacks, eight forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. That was playing mostly with his “hand in the ground,” he said.
That wasn’t always the case a season ago when he had seven tackles and spent six games as an inactive.
Feel like the forgotten rusher heading into this season? “Nah,” he said. “I’ll wake them up. Trust me.”
His coaches certainly appreciate what he brings to the table.
“He’s improving,” defensive coordinator Joe Woods said. “Last year, he was a versatile player for us.
“Right now, we said, ‘Hey, you’re a defensive lineman.’ So, he’s put the weight on. … I got on the scale with him – or watched him get on the scale – he was up to 278, and he’s really making some tremendous improvements.”
Definitely a step in the right direction.
“To me, if he’s in the 270s or 280s, that’s good enough for us, to play the defensive end position and to play as an inside rusher,” Woods said.
Defensive line coach Bill Kollar will take it from there.
“He understands what Bill wants,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. “Bill’s obviously a demanding coach, so being with Bill has helped DeMarcus play harder, and obviously being bigger is going to help him play better for us.”
NOTES: OL Garett Bolles plans to play this upcoming season between 300 and 305 pounds. “Just so I can anchor when I get those bull rushes and things like that,” Bolles said. “Feel more comfortable there. Feel more explosive and powerful there.” Bolles was in the vicinity of 290-295 in his rookie season.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.