JACKSONVILLE – Walker Little feels a difference. It’s a good difference.
The Jaguars’ offensive tackle is entering his second NFL season. He didn’t play a full rookie season, but he did play. And he started three games. He practiced an entire season, too.
All that matters to Little as Year 2 approaches.
“My confidence is a lot higher,” he said.
Little, a second-round selection by the Jaguars in the 2021 NFL Draft, spoke early this week as the team began organized team activities – the first part of Phase 3 of the voluntary offseason program. Little worked at left tackle Monday with starter Cam Robinson out for a personal reason.
It is on the other side of the line where Little is expected to be a story in the coming months.
Little, mostly a left tackle at Stanford University, is expected to compete for the starting right tackle position in 2022 Training Camp with three-year starter and 2019 second-round selection Jawaan Taylor. And yes, Little said… he’s ready for the competition.
“To me, it doesn’t change a whole lot,” Little said. “You’re always competing with yourself. We’re all competing with each other. Even if you’re a 10-year-old guy with his spot secured, you always have competition inside you.
“For me, it’s not about the competition, per se. It’s just competing with myself and being the best version of myself each day and making sure I do my job the best I can. If I can do that, hopefully the results will be what I want them to be. We’ll figure it out from there. “
Little, asked if he expected to start, said: “That’s a fair question, but ultimately it’s not up to me. I’m going to work my butt off to be a starter on this team, but ultimately the coaches will decide that.”
Little’s NFL starts to date came last season in place of Robinson – in Weeks 9, 17 and 18. The Jaguars re-signed Robinson to a three-year contract extension early this month, making Little’s likeliest starting opportunity right rather than left tackle.
Little worked extensively at both positions in practice as a rookie, with Robinson starting 14 games and Taylor starting all 17 in 2021.
“I got so many reps throughout the year on both sides that I feel very comfortable on both sides now,” he said. “Even through Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the offseason I was able to work on both sides of it. I feel really good on both.”
Walker’s presence may also give the Jaguars position flexibility. Little’s coach at Stanford, David Shaw, told jaguars.com shortly after the ’21 draft that Little could move inside and play guard.
“I’ll play wherever I need to play,” Little said. “Ultimately, I’m just here as a football player, an offensive lineman. Wherever they want me on the line, I’ll fight for it and I’ll play. I’ll do my best to open up lanes for the running backs and protect the quarterback.
“That’s our job as OL. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as just tackle or just anything else.”
Little said whatever his role, he likes the different feeling he has entering his second NFL season.
“A lot of it is confidence-based,” he said. “With a higher confidence just comes a level of comfort when you’re out there, which really helps you perform. Sometimes as a rookie, you get out there and you feel overwhelmed and a little worked up.
“That can slow your mind down, which slows your body down. I feel more prepared. The rookie year had its highs and lows. I loved it and it was an experience you have to go through, but I’m definitely excited to be in Year 2 now and to have a little less stress and a level of comfortability. “
Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson on outside linebacker Travon Walker, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft: He’s been doing really well. He’s really embracing the role, obviously been working at the one position and doing extremely well. He’s such a pro. He’s so hard on himself. He doesn’t want to make a mistake and you just have to tell him, ‘Hey, just calm down, relax, everything’s going to be okay. We have plenty of time before we play a game.’ But you like players like that who are critical of themselves and their performance because they want to do well, and he’s been one of those guys. “