In a league filled with old faces in new places or better known as recycled coaches, the St. Louis Rams are treading new waters as the hire Lions’ defensive back coach Tim Walton.
I was on board of the initial hiring of Rob Ryan, but the two hard-nosed personalities and defensive schemes in Ryan and HC Jeff Fisher wasn’t the ideal match. Former Browns’ defensive coordinator Dick Jauron and Vikings’ special assistant to the head coach/linebackers Mike Singletary would have been attention-grabbers, but they reside the bin of recycled coaches.
This move make sense on so many levels. Walton is technically a product of the Fisher Coaching Tree. He worked under Lions’ HC Jim Schwartz who was Fisher’s former defensive coordinator in Tennessee. Walton has never really left Fisher’s side, well sort of. He also worked along side Rams assistant secondary coach in Brandon Fisher in 2011 in Motown. Walton was on Fisher’s radar last season, but he opted to stay with the Lions with a new title of defensive backs/third-down package coach. Walton ensures familiarity with the scheme and the coaching staff.
Before Walton’s jump to the NFL, he spent 14 seasons in the college ranks coaching at Miami, Louisiana State, and Memphis. At Miami and Memphis, he was the defensive coordinator in 2008 and 2007 respectively.
And Walton’s specialty? Defensive backs. For a team that had one combined interception between their starting safeties, the Rams could use someone to develop playmakers in the secondary. Walton coached nine players that were drafted in the first or second round. That list includes Kenny Phillips (a free agent), LaRon Landry, Antrel Rolle, Brandon Meriweather, Corey Webster, Kelly Jennings and Idrees Bashir. He also coached Devin Hester who was a CB for Miami, but now he’s a WR for Chicago.
In most cases when a coordinator or coach leaves for another team, players follow. When the Rams hired Steve Spagnuolo, Fredd Robbins and Quintin Mikell followed, and Cortland Finnegan and William Hayes followed Fisher in his hiring. So does that mean Rams’ will pursue Lions’ free agents?
Maybe so. With a need at safety, there is Louis Delmas, and why not pursue linebackers Justin Durant or DeAndre Levy to pair next to James Laurinaitis and Jo-Lonn Dunbar? Just a thought.
While Walton was at Detroit, the Lions finished tied for third in the NFL in 2011 with 34 takeaways. In 2012, a drastic drop to 17 was due to a slew of injuries in the secondary, but the Lions managed to have the 14-ranked passing defense, ironically one spot ahead of the Rams.
Fisher will still have his paws all over the defense. Even without a defensive coordinator this past season, the committee approach led the Rams to a top-15 unit. Walton’s teaching of takeaways will not only bolster the defense, but also magnify Fisher’s ability to change this organization into a perennial contender.