Kenneth Walker lll was one of the best players in college football last season. For Michigan State he rushed for 1,636 yards on 263 carries, scored 18 rushing touchdowns and 1 receiving touchdown, chipping in 13 catches for 89 yards. As a result of those numbers, he won the Doak Walker award which goes to the best running back in the country, and he finished sixthin the Heisman Trophy voting. The Seahawks invested the 41st overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft in Walker lll with the hopes that he can translate those numbers into success at the NFL level. Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron is going to be tasked with finding ways to best maximize Walker lll’s skillset, what are some of the plays we can see him call in order to do that this season?
Will Kenneth Walker finish as a top 15 fantasy RB as a rookie?— PFN Fantasy Football (@PFNFantasy) June 22, 2022
❤️= no pic.twitter.com/KO7d2wl4Sv
Most forced missed tackles in a season by a Big Ten RB:— PFF College (@PFF_College) April 11, 2022
1️⃣ Kenneth Walker (2021) - 89
2️⃣ Jonathan Taylor (2019) - 87pic.twitter.com/QlrtUrACIK
Highest-graded Big 10 RB in the Red Zone?— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 26, 2022
Kenneth Walker - 83.5pic.twitter.com/fxY8rfjgx8
Counter plays in my opinion are the best way of utilizing all of Walker lll’s strengths as a runner. The small jab step right off of the snap as well as certain players flowing against the direction of the run changes the direction of the defense’s eyes. Once this happens it lets Walker lll use both his elite vision in deciphering whether or not defenders are overplaying their gap or misreading the flow of the play. Additionally, it allows him to showcase his quick burst to hit any hole that opens on the play as a result of undisciplined play by the defense.
Shane Waldron is going to be able to get extremely creative with these counter running plays. He can do things such as having wide receivers line up in tight trips right off of the offensive tackle, where DK Metcalf pulls down as a lead blocker to the offense’s weak side. Another play would feature one of Tyler Lockett or Dee Eskridge on a fake on an end around which would be the same side Walker lll takes his jab step. This in turn would get the defense looking that way only to have Walker lll counter to the other side. A significant perk of play calling like that as well is it impacts the passing game in a positive manner. If Waldron was to call the play where Metcalf was a lead blocker to the weak side early in the season, he can call a play action pass out of the same formation where Metcalf gets the ball on an underneath route putting him in a foot race to the sideline. A massive part of play calling is setting up your opponent and having a back as talented as Walker lll really helps Waldron do that.
Rams actually have some very nice interior OL play, yet their RBs keep missing their marks. Very frustrating as an OL. Here is a basic inside zone that very easily could’ve gone for 3-4 yards but Brown decided to bounce out and only gain a yard or more. pic.twitter.com/GQCQDUmoNx— The Man, Myth and Legend (@CoachJaredLB) October 14, 2020
Inside zone running plays are a really good way of using Walker lll for two reasons:
1.) It does a great job of utilizing his ability to get skinny and run in between blockers whilst being strong enough to run through arm tackles.
2.) His great vision allows him to find those small holes that form in the inside zone game. There are fewer cut back lanes available on inside zone runs compared to outside zone runs so it is extremely important for a back to have good patience, vision and acceleration on these plays, all of which Walker lll features.
3/ Looking over Shane Waldron and Sean McVay's scheme, seems like the #Seahawks are converting into the classic wide zone (outside zone) stretch scheme.— Samuel Gold (@SamuelRGold) February 22, 2021
Here are a few examples of outside zone strong and midzone weak that will be run A LOT next year.
️ https://t.co/wmiSL6bsAc pic.twitter.com/pdDaW8H0h2
He is patient behind his blockers, finds a small gap, and bursts through it for the first down. pic.twitter.com/YkQM3ooaoA— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) December 29, 2021
In my opinion outside zone running plays are the second-best way to utilize what Walker lll brings to the table as a runner for a few reasons:
1.) Walker lll’s overall burst to the edge. He will be dealing with quicker defenders at the NFL level, but his acceleration is still going to flash which will make outside zone running plays extremely effective.
2.) His ability to quickly identify cut back lanes and attack them. There are some running backs at the pro level who lack both the awareness and burst to punish defenses who flow too much on plays to the outside. However, Walker lll is not one of those backs. The second-round pick routinely punished opposing defenses with cutbacks as he was able to stop on a dime and change directions going away from the flow of the run before the defense had time to react.
3.) How easily the Michigan State product can make defenders miss in the open field. Last college football season Walker lll lead the nation in missed tackles forced by a running back. Outside zone running plays more often put running backs in 1v1 situations against second level defenders where they have to make a move in order to pick up additional yards on the play which is something he will have zero problem doing at the pro level.
One of the bright spots from Sundays #49ers game. I love this play call by Kyle, completely fooling the defense with a FB dive.— SFN✌️ (@TheSFNiners_) October 13, 2020
Run-action looks like outside-zone and Juice knifes through the defense for a walk-in score. We need more of this next week against the #Rams. pic.twitter.com/IvlLHfgkVR
When you have a player as talented as Walker lll you have to find creative ways to put the ball in their hands. This is an example of a play I really like for him which can translate to other situations as well. If Waldron was to have an “I” formation with Penny dotting the “I” and Walker lll lined up as the fullback, undisciplined defenders are going to lose their assignment and are likely to defend the first thing they see. In this situation we see the fake toss which causes the entire defense to flow to the faked run side. However rather than tossing it, Jimmy Garoppolo hands the ball to Kyle Juszczyk for an easy walk-in touchdown.
Walker lll does not have the size of a traditional fullback but his ability to run in between the tackles and get below the pad levels of defenders would be highlighted on a play like this. It is imperative Shane Waldron finds as many different ways as possible to get Penny, Walker lll, Metcalf, Lockett, and Fant on the field at once to truly stress defenses and a play call like this is one of the ways to do that. Additionally, this is another play that can be shown early in the season which can then have wrinkles run off of it later in the season, such as faking the hand off to Walker lll from the fullback position to then toss it to Penny who is dotting the “I”.
1⃣ Clemson - Dead Side Fade— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) December 8, 2020
Clemson aligning Trips to the Field and using Tear Motion to send the RB Strong. Fake the Swing Screen to the Field. Some teams will allow backside WR’s to be “dead” plays away. Clemson WR Cornell Powell plays “dead” and runs a delayed Fade! pic.twitter.com/mFu1xq9ZXc
Fake bubble to the bunch, RB middle screen pic.twitter.com/hS6mN3MuFt— SyedSchemes (@syedschemes) October 10, 2021
Walker lll is not going to see many third down or obvious passing play snaps because of his below average pass protection. That doesn’t mean he still can’t get the ball in his hands in the passing game. He is not a very good route runner, but he does have above average hands. The best way to get him incorporated in the passing game is in the screen game where he can get the ball in space. On the Clemson play we don’t see them throw the screen; however, this play is still a great way of displaying how Waldron could use Walker lll.
Waldron could call a swing screen for Walker lll out of this formation with Metcalf at the top of the screen as the “X” receiver. This play is almost an extension of the running game because of how quickly the ball is thrown, and it allows Waldron to get Walker lll the ball in space with blockers out ahead of him which will allow him to use both his acceleration and vision to rip off a chunk play. I really like the Packers screen with this Seahawks offense because of the weapons that it features. Seattle could easily isolate Metcalf at the bottom on the boundary side of the field, with tight trips on the field side of Lockett, Fant and Dee Eskridge. If the defense has two safeties high, they will likely roll one over to Metcalf’s side whilst the other comes down off of the snap due to the bubble screen being shown. As a result, the defenses eyes are completely away from the backfield which would allow Walker lll to pick up a full head of steam before the defenses realizes the screen call.
(Editor’s note: Of course, this means the Seahawks have to learn how to be good at screens, which... yeah!)