Cory's Corner: I've Seen Enough Of Oren Burks

 
Oren Burks came into this season with plenty of questions. 
 
“I know what type of ball I’m capable of playing, and I’m feeling like I didn’t live up to my own expectations," said Burks after last year. "I’m hungry to get back after it, to prove to myself, prove to the team, my worth.”
 
The second-year inside linebacker is scratching and clawing to get on the field once again this year. To be fair, luck hasn't been on his side as the third round pick was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the 2018 preseason and he compounded that with a pectoral injury in the 2019 preseason opener. 
 
Worth is a touchy subject. The Packers' defense has been gouged to the tune of 826 yards on 69 receptions and six touchdowns via the tight end. Burks was supposed to be the dynamic playmaker that Green Bay has desperately missed from the inside linebacker spot. 
 
"You want to be dominant, but if that's off the table, if you're going to choose where you're going to be good, it's going to be keeping teams out of the end zone," said Mike Pettine this week. "With the issues we've had this year, I think that's one area where we have done a good job."
 
The keyword from the above quote is issues. I really like Blake Martinez. He's a sure tackler and an excellent leader. However, he is getting exposed in coverage and he needs to be complemented with a quicker, more dynamic version. That was supposed to be Burks, who started out playing in the secondary at Vanderbilt.
 
However, he's been stung with injuries and pedestrian play. So, now the Packers have to start wondering how much time is left on Burks' clock. He has two years remaining on his deal, but his dead cap number for next year is $410,378 and it's $205,189 in 2021. Those are numbers the Packers can easily swallow.
 
I was excited about Burks heading into this year. I didn't want the Packers to draft Devin Bush last spring because of his tackling inconsistency. But nobody could've predicted that Burks would've been bitten time and again by the injury bug.
 
The defense is excellent at defensive line, good at outside linebacker and has been steady at defensive back. The one gigantic wart on the Packers' defense is inside linebacker. 
 
And unless Burks can play more than 6.5 percent of the defensive snaps the rest of the season, he doesn't deserve to come back. Aaron Rodgers just turned 36. He has shown signs of wear this year, so the best way to help him out would be to beef up the defense. The reason the Packers started 5-1 was because of the defense. That unit got pressure and Rodgers knew he didn't have to do too much.
 
However, Philadelphia, San Diego and San Francisco set the template for beating this team: throw it over the middle and keep Rodgers off the field with a running game that consistently gets first downs. 
 
Burks had plenty of promise, but it's time for Green Bay to jump ship. Injuries aren't the fault of the player, but it's time the Packers get out too soon rather than too late. 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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Comments (42)

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cheesy_buffalo's picture

December 07, 2019 at 06:36 am

Seen enough of what? The guy hasn't even been on the field in most of those coverage situations where GB has given up explosive plays over the middle, so it's pretty strange to say that he should be gone.

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Daren726's picture

December 07, 2019 at 06:48 am

The reason we haven’t seen him is because Pettine doesn’t trust him. Maybe he hasn’t had time to develop yet. This is his first almost full year. Maybe he’s never going to become what they want. I say Gute needs to look in free agency this offseason and find a good one if available. We can’t wait to see. AROD is getting up there in years. This is the biggest hole in the defense.

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Coldworld's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:25 am

Not sure it is as simple as that. He is raw and coming off or carrying an injury.

I agree that what we have seen so far is not good enough. But I think it foolish to write off a player who is inexperienced and potentially physically hampered. Mid season one is not going to get a better option off the street.

He costs nothing, continue to develop him and increase competition in the off season and let him get fit if applicable and learn. Guy does not seem to be a troublemaker. Zero reason to move on now.

That is true also at the third linebacker hybrid safety position. Greene showed he was capable. Campbell has yet to show much and Amis is wasted there.

As far as defense goes, those two positions should be a key focus for improvement overall and at starter. Competition and depth are essential there. Burks, Greene and Campbell can and should compete for depth as well as starting roles. All are affordable.

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EddieLeeIvory's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:31 pm

None of u were happy with that draft pick the moment it was announced.
I was at that draft in Dallas and had spent tons of time in that draft process.

I didn't want Burks in the 5th Rd. And I didn't want any of those 3 WRs we took.

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MarkTroy's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:59 am

"The guy hasn't even been on the field..."
right there is reason enough to move on from him my friend.

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sonomaca's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:14 am

Could be he’s still hurt, or just rounding into football shape. Also, Pettine’s scheme isn’t producing results outside the red zone. It asks too much of young players. That’s why Martinez and Truman seem comfortable, but Jaire, Savage, King and Burks are a bit lost.

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Duneslick's picture

December 07, 2019 at 02:41 pm

Burks can not beat out the starters that are giving up all this yardage. The coach's feel he is not as good as they are based on practice and film.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 07, 2019 at 06:55 pm

Exactly on point, except this “yardage” stuff doesn’t mean much to me. If a team drives the ball 60 yards and then turns it over or settles for a FG, how much did the yards mean.

We’re 13th in points with a real good chance still to finish in the top 10. We’re very good in the red zone. We’re good at takeaways. Our Opposing Passer Rating is very good.. Considering all the new faces and Yoots, we’re doing pretty well.

We always said that if we had an average defense we’d be in business with our offense. Are we moving the goal posts now?

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Packerlifer's picture

December 07, 2019 at 07:05 am

I've gotta take issue with your evaluation that the Packers are "excellent on the line, good at olb and steady at defensive back." They're excellent at olb. But except for Kenny Clark they still need two strong defensive ends. Lowry and Adams are back-ups on a Super Bowl caliber defense. Green Bay needs a new Cullen Jenkins and Ryan Pickett on this one. The big explosive "chunk" plays the secondary gives up isn't "steady." But the personnel could be helped out by a stronger front 7. A new Desmond Bishop type ilb has been the dream in Titletown since 2011.

The question LaFleur and Gutekunst need to look at in these remaining years of Aaron Rodgers is whether they can get the defense they need for a championship by sticking with the 3-4 or is it time to go 4-3?

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MarkinMadison's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:13 am

A change in scheme like that would take 2-3 years to implement. Some players could transition but some could not. Remember Bryce Paup? Great player. Couldn't transition from 4-3 to 3-4. Maybe you still have Pettine but probably you have to go out and get a new DC. You're talking about rebuilding the defense, again. When #12 is 36. I'm not a fan of that idea. If the defense was garbage you could have that debate. I don't think the defense is anywhere near that bad.

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Tundraboy's picture

December 07, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Absolutely agree and the simpler solution is a major upgrade at inside linebacker. How can it possibly be that we are totally inept at finding one for the last 6 ,7 ,8 hell 10 years!!!

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Turophile's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:08 am

Like Packerlifer, the phrase "Excellent on the defensive line" made me say, What ?

We have one stud in Kenny Clark (who was injured most of this season, but is recently back to his old form), and two JAGs in Lowry and Adams and a rookie who is pure cross your fingers and hope, in Kingsley Keke.

If I were drafting for the Packers next draft, my inclination at the moment would be to go DL, WR, ILB with the first three picks and in that order. Later I'd grab a RB, a return specialist and a maybe a developmental TE as well, if there are any rough-around-the-edges TEs the team like as a project. This would necessitate re-signing Bulaga on a 2-3 year deal, meaning next year is the time for a high pick at RT.

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blacke00's picture

December 07, 2019 at 10:00 am

Ditto on your response "Packerlifer". My sentiments exactly!

Cory, I don't know what you are smoking but it's giving off green and gold smoke!

The packers need to bolster the D-line big time. their vulnerability to the fun is obvious and nothing is going to change this season so everyone is just going to have to get use to it.

The bigger issue here is the drafting department! Burke is a 3rd rounder and he can't get the field, Gary and top 15 pick and is essentially invisible, Josh Jackson a second round and not on the field. There's a problem here the scouting department is not very good or the coaching is bad or both. The Packers have had their share of horrible drafts over the past few years.

I know...I know....The draft is a crap shoot, but missing on high draft choices is a recipe for losing your job!
So far I'm not impressed with Gutekunst.

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splitpea1's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:01 am

I'm glad somebody finally mentioned the questionable scouting and drafting in the first three rounds. Although I'm the furthest thing from a defensive personnel expert, it seems the Packers are too fixated on the athleticism and versatility of some of these players; just go by the book and take the best player available at a particular position and stop trying to convert them into effective NFL players from other positions.

Not only do the Packers have to spend a premium pick on an ILB, but they should also sign one in free agency to ensure improvement in this area. Please, no more projects or waiting for the (hopefully not) mythical second year jump!

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Sol's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:20 pm

I would have to agree with you and it should be a very interesting off season. Also inside linebackers tend to produce much better when they not fighting off blocks from 300 lbs athletic guards. We need to pray to the football God's that we can get another big thumper inside that commands regular double teams.

Thanks Packerlifer

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Sol's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:58 pm

Oren Burks is a mystery to me also, there are so many reasons that players don't play that fans will never know about that goes on inside NFL teams inner circles, games and practices.

With that being said I can't help thinking about when Aron Rodgers came to the side lines and requested that Alan Lazard be put into the game. If he has NFL talent and the other players, team leaders of our defense think he can make a difference why hasn't this happened.? It could be the difference in the approach of our defensive and offensive coaching staffs, or just maybe the guys he plays and trains with every day see something that fans just might not be privy to.

As a fan I see a young player who checks all the boxes youth, speed and low cost for a couple of more years. The first year he was playing on a team in turmoil and big changes coming. This year he had a tough injury early, the kind you just don't come back early unless you are young like him. If I had to vote I guess I would say, see what happens down the stretch this season and how the draft shapes up this year and probably give him one more year to develop on a team that now has a much better chemistry and better leaders on defense.

Go Pack

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Boneman's picture

December 07, 2019 at 07:41 am

As pointed out he's cheap, young and fast. The Pack needs special teamers too!

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egbertsouse's picture

December 07, 2019 at 07:44 am

The DL is not excellent. It’s average. It’s Kenny Clark and the JAGs. Blake Martinez is not good in this defense. He makes a lot of tackles but, as McGinn says, not where they need to be made for this defense to work. He might work next to a thumper but that will never happen because Gutey, likE Uncle Ted, does not value ILBs and will never draft one in the first 2 rounds.

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Houndog's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:08 am

I agree, we haven't had a thumper since Bishop!
Where I hope you're wrong is on Gutekunst, hoping that despite what appears to be a carbon copy of TT he is actually seeing the clear picture and intends to do something about it. Whether it's a thumper or a speed LB they need to stop the constant success other teams are having through the middle.
Every DC in the NFL must be literally drooling over (what appears to be) the Packers' completely ignoring that position, they sure as hell are exploiting it.

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calabasa's picture

December 07, 2019 at 05:28 pm

Literally drooling?

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msnpackfan's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:05 am

Don't know what you see in Blake Martinez. Sure he makes a lot of tackles, 5 yard beyond the line of scrimmage. When is the last time Martinez made a game changing play? He consistently puts himself in bad position, does not fill holes on the run and never attacks the RB but waits to get over run. Constantly gets swallowed up by TE or OL and cannot get off blocks. Time for Martinez to go away.

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Guam's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:27 am

I fall somewhere between you and Cory on Martinez. I would like to see Martinez behind a solid D-line that can keep him clean before I decided to discard him. In a 3-4 he should not have to fend off an O-lineman or TE to get to the RB. However you are correct that when an O-lineman gets to him, Martinez does not do a good job of shedding him.

Not sure any other ILB will do a better job for the Packers until we fix our D-line, but Martinez may not be the answer after we fix the D-line. Have to fix the D-line first to find out.

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Coldworld's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:27 am

All depends on what he is supposed to be doing and how much he has to adapt play due to weakness at 2nd and 3rd linebacker. Did have a sack last week I believe.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 07, 2019 at 12:42 pm

Every tackle he makes is a play. Tackles are plays. They stop forward progress. Missed tackles lead to long plays and even TDS.

Martinez is going to sign a lucrative contract in a few months. The only question is whether it’s with us or not. Every hole we create means we have to commit resources to fill it

Get rid of Graham and Bulaga and Martinez and MSV and King and then we can spend our resources on guys that we HOPE will be better.

OR

Don’t make holes we don’t have to and try to strengthen the team by addition, not subtraction.

Personally, I’d try to keep most of the guys that we have, especially if they’re still young

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Guam's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:07 am

I am also going to take issue with the "DL is excellent" statement. We have one really good defensive lineman, Kenny Clark, and rest are rotational players. Lowery and Lancaster are very average defensive linemen and I think Adams has a greater chance of being cut next year than Burks (and I think you are right that Burks may well be gone). Keke is still largely an unknown although he is getting as many snaps as Adams lately.

I am not absolving the ILB position of its shortcomings, but they would look better if they had a solid defensive line ahead of them. A big part of the reason Martinez makes his tackles five yards behind the line of scrimmage is the D-line is not keeping him clean. He is often fending off a guard or center while trying to make the tackle. In a 3-4 defense, that shouldn't be happening nearly as often as it does.

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Leatherhead's picture

December 07, 2019 at 03:22 pm

Did Gutekunst overpay Lowry? Or does he bring more to the table than people think?

If our leading tackler is making tackles 5 yards downfield, then why aren’t teams averaging 5 yards per attempt?

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Razer's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:38 am

Maybe they could transition Oren Burks to TE. The Packer way.

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Since'61's picture

December 07, 2019 at 08:57 am

I haven't seen Burks play enough to determine if he should be chucked or not. However, given the Packers situation at ILB I have to believe that if he could make a difference he would be out there for more snaps. As for the defense, Kenny Clark basically plays alone on the DL, the other players show up and make an occasional contribution. OLB is excellent. ILB group is the TE of our defense, ineffective.
DBs young and improving but still need improvement in tackling and consistency but they are going in the right direction.

As for Rodgers at 36 the best way to support him is to get him better weapons at WR and TE. OL depth would be helpful as well.

Unfortunately, none of these reinforcements are coming until next season. We're healthy so let's go with what we have and beat the Redskins. Go Pack Go! Thanks, Since '61

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Lphill's picture

December 07, 2019 at 09:31 am

Burks was a waste of a 3 rd round pick, a third rounder should make an immediate impact he did not . Packers need to replace him and Martinez moving forward.

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Coldworld's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:29 am

I wish 3rd rounders could be relied upon to make an immediate impact. Sadly that’s not the norm.

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PatrickGB's picture

December 07, 2019 at 10:35 am

I see Raven Green as Burks replacement. But he is on IR now. Let’s see who comes up in FA next year at that spot and/or see if Burks shows any improvement next year before we cut him.

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Lare's picture

December 07, 2019 at 10:51 am

Is Burks not playing much, or is he playing and not doing much?

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Lphill's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:01 am

Lare I think they have no confidence in him I have seen him on the field but have not heard his name called for making a play.

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PeteK's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:17 am

I also don't think the D line is excellent. It might be the main issue with the defense as teams are shredding us with runs right up the heart of this D. Clark is having a sub par season probably because of overuse. We could have a solid rotation, but desperately need another good lineman. We only have 3 sacks and 140 tkls from our interior. Martinez has 118 by himself usually 4 yds downfield because the line is not holding its ground.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:20 am

The defense is excellent at defensive line, good at outside linebacker and has been steady at defensive back. The one gigantic wart on the Packers' defense is inside linebacker.

When you read this type of stuff you can make excuses for the author and say, well he meant the Smiths are part of the DL. Of course that we mean GB does not have any OLB at all and plays without the position

Or you can say, well this article doesn't make any sense at all. Why did I read it?

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PeteK's picture

December 07, 2019 at 02:01 pm

and then I went and wrote a response which makes me a total .....

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Tarynfor12's picture

December 07, 2019 at 11:49 am

I take exception to the use of ' excellent ' as a description for any position group on this team.

No matter how one feels about Oren Burks,whether he will or won't be as hoped/expected, the amount of injury time he has accumulated certainly diminishes the likelyhood of him being as hoped/expected.

GB has had a bad habit of hanging on to injured players, under the wait and see thinking/policy, only to see nothing but time invested pass by with no return and the issue that ails the team, still ailing the team because of such thinking/policy.

I know many will say that you can't get rid of players just because they get hurt and I agree. The problem is GB seems to keep players of ' suspicious value ' when hurt for too long and finding themselves in the middle of these types of discussions.

Gary is a #12 overall pick and at the moment is of 'suspicious value ' as that of Burks,less the injuries. The feeling is split on Gary as half are in the ' wait til next year ' thinking and they may be right. I hope they're right but the low level of his impact on this team as a #12 overall selection and his invisibility when on the field, may dampen that thinking or the justification of such, and will quickly equal that of Oren Burks, position of play aside. If the Packers have been molding him into some held secret for a time to present him to opponents amid the hoped ' win now ' mode, this is the time to serve that notice if there's one to be served.

The problems on defense is more than a Burks or ILB problem, It's a problem of having too many players, too often, however obtained that simply don't ripen quick enough or at all.

Some will be quick to pounce on the ' win now ' mode I used with the GB is in a ' rebuilding mode ' and will need a couple of years. With Rodgers aging yearly,because he IS human, the only rebuilding being done should be for his successor,if that is in the FO mindset, which I doubt, therefore any move or non move is to fulfill the ' win now ' mode with Rodgers and that is the question that all should be wondering/discussing, because the Rodgers window can get shut at any moment via the unlucky injury or by natural phenomenon. He's 36 and aging and not revitalizing and the decisions on players on both sides on the ball just might age him faster than need be. Getting players for Rodgers shouldn't be this difficult unless it is and that falls on the FO or the man,Rodgers himself, as to why it is. Many a good player chose NOT to come to GB during Rodgers current tenure.

Here's to hoping Rodgers looks 26 Sunday and for either 7-8 games in total if possible....WIN NOW MODE!!!

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Mlengyel's picture

December 07, 2019 at 12:14 pm

“The defense is excellent at defensive line, good at outside linebacker and has been steady at defensive back”.

What games you watching bro? Our Dline is terrible. If it was excellent we would be dominant against the run game and win at the line of scrimmage, and they never do. Part of that is due to the fact we play in nickel formation most of the time and that’s only allowing 2 Dline to 3 Dline per formation. ALSO, our Dbacks are really inconsistent. QBs are finding ways to expose King because he’s terrible in coverage, even against tight ends which is pathetic. And Jaire is playing good football but not what’s to be expected. If they played more man coverage and did more jamming at the line of scrimmage it would allow them to be more physical but because Pettine is incompetent on how to coach and call plays it’s hard for them to do there job.

Pettine has to go, and we need an agressive DC to get these guys moving, light a fire under their asses... or it’s just more waste of talent.

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stockholder's picture

December 07, 2019 at 12:59 pm

If you can't play. You get injured! Comparison was Joe Thomas. Another failure. This was a terrible pick, and Trade up by Gute. Stamp him BUST!

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ShooterMcGee's picture

December 07, 2019 at 06:51 pm

I am tired of the trade ups on draft day. We traded up for Jason Spriggs and Oren Burks, both of whom are busts. Jury is still out on Savage but other safeties such as Thornhill and Hooker have been playing well. They were taken much later in the draft. We have 10 picks in next years draft and I would like to see some trading back. The more picks the better. Lets draft 12 players and if 4 turn out,to be decent, a 33% hit rate, it's more than we got this year.

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stockholder's picture

December 07, 2019 at 10:55 pm

The problem is both TT and Gute didn't go with "Position strength" of the draft. They went player hype. Thornhill was a steal. I still would trade -up this draft. AS deep as the Wr class is. Trade up for that game changer. Trade back if you want that "position player." Gute actually did the right thing last year. But his picks were a gamble. Wilkins, Sweat, and Thornhill were better picks IMO. Wilkins LG was a solid pick. Did you notice I used Solid Pick? Because thats what has been wrong. Solid picks are football players. Not Gambles. The packers have been going Value instead of solid, in the later rounds. Their wishlist has been just that.

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PackfanNY's picture

December 08, 2019 at 09:19 am

This is an example of where you really need to trust your organization...coaches, scouts and GM. I can’t tell a damn thing as he never plays. Never even on the field. If he’s on the field he is the invisible man. Is it because of injury? Performance in practice? Only Gute and staff know. This is year 2 for a 3rd round pick. Question really Is he developing?

We will find out this off-season as no one rides for free. Either he is in the plans or it’s time to find someone else.

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