Bucs LT Walker Looks Forward To Fresh Start

April 17 – Tampa Bay left tackle Kenyatta Walker is approaching his one-year anniversary as a Buccaneer. For the most part, it's a year he wants to forget. Walker was inconsistent as a rookie last year, which contributed to some of the team's offensive woes. But according to Bucs general manager Rich McKay, it wasn't all of Walker's fault.

Tampa Bay left tackle Kenyatta Walker doesn't care to remember much of last season. Bucs QB Brad Johnson probably can't help but remember it. The Bucs offensive line surrendered a whopping 47 sacks in 16 games during Walker's rookie season. But like most of his teammates, Walker is looking forward to a fresh start under new head coach Jon Gruden.

"This is my second year," said Walker. "I want to be consistent this year. Last year, at the beginning of the year, I struggled. I flat out struggled, and it was hard. I went through everything last year. I1ve just got to get better."

It was almost impossible for Walker to live up to the expectations set for him when Tampa Bay traded their first-and-second round draft picks to Buffalo in exchange for the Bills' No. 14 overall draft pick in the first round, which the Bucs used to select the former Florida Gator.

Despite Walker's inconsistent rookie season, Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay is confident the second-year left tackle can shake off the experience.

"He played inconsistent football (last season)," said McKay. "I'm very impressed with what Kenyatta did (last year). Here's a guy that had a good camp, looked like he was ready to go, took some hits early in some games, took some hits in the media and took some hits on the field. And he came back from it and played extremely well down the stretch. You watch the Monday Night game (St. Louis) and you watched how Kenyatta played as he got an opportunity to get his feet underneath him. He played very well. It's not fair, especially the position he plays. When we played the Steelers, it was hard for Kenyatta to figure out which of the three guys were his. It's hard for a veteran."

After having time to reflect, McKay felt the team needed to take some of the blame for Walker's rookie woes.

"The only thing we were probably a little remiss in what we were doing was accounting enough for where he was as a rookie in his development" said McKay. "We probably made it tough on him in what we required of him."

Walker left Florida for the NFL as a junior, and McKay thinks there's some validity to the idea that players that leave college early take some time to develop in terms of both skill and maturity at the pro level.

"There is no question that when you draft a junior there is a special set of circumstances that surround it" said McKay. "The main one is the guy is usually a year, or two, younger, has a year or two less in college to mature and get a little more accustomed to how they are going to conduct themselves as an adult. There's issues. We know what they are. To me, the biggest thing we've learned is you have to have a plan for the kid. You have to realize the special set of circumstances require you on the other end to have a plan to help the young man deal with some of the issues that are facing him. It just means you can't throw him in there and treat him the same as a fifth-year senior. There is a difference."

Some of Tampa Bay's offensive linemen were critical of former Tampa Bay offensive line coach Chris Foerster's coaching techniques last season. Walker and Co. believe the addition of new offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir will only help his unit improve.

"He's (Bill Muir) a good coach," said Walker. "The good thing is he1s the offensive coordinator, so we1ll know exactly what1s going on. I think it1s going to be good for us.

"He1s (Muir) definitely going to coach us. He1s going to put a lot of pressure on me, and I1m going to do a lot more athletic things. It1s going to be interesting."

While Walker enjoyed playing for former Bucs head coach Tony Dungy, he welcomes the addition of an offensive-minded head coach like Gruden.

"Coach Dungy was a good coach," said Walker. "I loved to play for him. Gruden is an offensive minded guy. Everybody knows this defense is strong. This offense is going to have something. We1re going to have some offensive plays to get us up and down this field and put some points on the board."

Walker feels Gruden brings more than his diverse offensive playbook to Tampa. He thinks Tampa Bay's offense will have an identity under Gruden, which is something Walker believes the Bucs lacked last season.

"I feel like we1re going to have some type of identity," said Walker. "Last year, we didn1t know if we were a running team or a passing team. We were just an offense, sometimes. This year, I think we1re going to have an identity on offense."

The jury is still out in terms of determining whether or not Walker will turn out to be a first-round steal or bust in the NFL, but McKay is certain the Bucs made the right choice when they traded up to land Walker just over a year ago.

"We like the upside and we like the player (Walker)," said McKay. "We said last year that he could be left tackle here for an awfully long time. I very much believe that."

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