Oren Burks Might Not Get a Better Chance

In year three, Oren Burks might not get a better chance to make an impact for the Packers. 

It’s easy to see why linebacker the Green Bay Packers liked Oren Burks as a third-round pick. In 2018, the Green Bay wanted to get faster on defense, and not many prospects were better suited than Burks, a safety-linebacker hybrid out of Vanderbilt. So, they traded up to get him. However, his athletic testing aside, Burks has been a major flop. Through 26 games, he has failed to crack the rotation. And with only a couple of years left on his rookie deal, he could be running out of opportunities.

A 4.59 forty, 39.5-inch vertical, 10’11” broad jump, and a 6.82 three-cone time. For an inside linebacker, these numbers are tremendous. Even in today’s NFL where teams are looking for more athleticism out of the position than ever before. Burks fit the mold nearly perfect, however, it’s hard to gauge where Burks fit into the team’s plans. They just selected inside linebacker Kamal Martin in the fifth round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

At the time of Burks’ selection, Blake Martinez was coming into his own and the Packers probably didn’t expect Jake Ryan to tear his ACL that July. Ryan’s unfortunate injury presented Burks with a great opportunity for his rookie season while everyone remained optimistic.

Martinez contributed more than expected as a rookie in 2016 and Burks was both a better athlete and the higher draft pick. It was hard not to get excited about Burks’ potential. After all, he had the rare experience of playing both linebacker and safety.

Following his first two preseason games, Burks was off to a solid start with 10 tackles. He then suffered a strange shoulder injury during the pre-game of game number three. After being inactive for the first two games of the regular season, the damage was done. Clearly, Burks was well behind a slower, less agile, and far less versatile player in Antonio Morrison. He played in 14 games, starting only four.

Luckily for Burks, Morrison did not return in 2019 as Burks prepared himself to push for more playing time. A torn pec during the preseason robbed him of that chance. Instead of rushing Burks back into a prominent role, Green Bay relied on a combination of Martinez and BJ Goodson, another underwhelming prospect, to handle the load.

Burks never really got off the ground last season playing 12 games and recording only 11 tackles. It was a huge letdown for a player that once emanated so much hope.

Despite a rocky first two years, there’s still a chance Burks can turn it around. Martinez is now gone, but he has to go through the presumed starter in Christian Kirksey. With similar measurables, Kirksey is a nice insurance policy if Burks fails to show any development for the future.

Kirksey, however, is no sure thing either. He’s played only nine games in the last two years. If he goes down again, it could be up to Burks or other unprovens such as Curtis Bolton, Ty Summers, or Kamal Martin. As a last resort, Green Bay might turn to a safety to slide into the linebacker spot.

If Burks falls flat this season, it would come as no surprise if it were his final shot in Green Bay. He still has time to right the ship and change the trajectory of his career but its wearing thin. The Packers still like his potential and he’s been given a great opportunity. Now it’s up to him to do something with it.

 

 

 

Brandon Carwile is a Packers writer who also enjoys watching and breaking down film. Follow him on Twitter @PackerScribe.

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Comments (36)

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BoHunter's picture

June 22, 2020 at 06:44 am

I too have been very excited about the potential of Oren Burks. This young man’s dreams and opportunity are right in front of him for a team that is in desperate need of some help at ILB. I will give him a pass on previous seasons missing time due to some unfortunate injuries, but it is time for him to look in the mirror and determine if he wants to be remembered fondly as a beloved player who carried the G, or merely a disappointing bust who was a wasted pick. Go get it 42!,

Cheers,

BoHunter

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nostradanus's picture

June 22, 2020 at 07:28 am

These past two seasons the Packers have had to scramble and grab below average linebackers off the NFL scrap heap, it goes to show why hitting on your draft choices is so important. This issue is compounded when you not only draft a player you believe in with a premium pick but you also trade other draft capital to get up to that spot.
When the Packers drafted Burks I watched his film many times and while I was impressed by his testing numbers, I could not for the life of me figure out why they took him.

It is so easy for a GM to be seduced by combine numbers, especially when you are trying so hard to add speed to your defense. But the bottom line that I saw when watching Burks film is he just did not make a lot of plays at Vanderbilt!

Burks is a very impressive young man, he's smart, uber athletic and an upstanding individual, but he is just not an instinctive football player. Can this be fixed with coaching, we all hope so but the NFL is littered with great physical freaks who shined at the combine but flopped in the NFL.

Do I want Orin to succeed? You betcha!
Do I think he is going to be anything more than a backup/special teams guy? Unfortunately no.

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Coldworld's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:10 am

I don’t really know if he lacks instincts. When he has hit the field it seems that he has been physically sub par.

In my view we have nothing to go on, and that is the problem. He simply hasn’t been able to hit the field unhampered. Oftentimes it takes a while to get beyond injuries like that of his first year mentally. I’m not sure he did before he was hurt again.

While that is not his fault, in the end it makes little difference. This year he has to stay healthy and then show that he can play at a level above his competition as a starter or backup. If not, I believe that he is done in Green Bay, if not the league.

Potentially he could be competing for ILB 2 and at the Hybrid Safety position, so there the author is spot on: the opportunities are open for him. Can his body hold up and if so can he out play and out last the likes of Bolton and the influx of new rookie ILB and Hybrid candidates. Will the likely shortened pre-season help or hinder?

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 23, 2020 at 07:31 pm

Move him out before camp begins and let Gutedkunst own the misplaced pick.

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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2020 at 11:07 pm

Besides the injuries the biggest thing I noticed is he seemed to lack the physicality for ILB. But injuries can account for some of that, and as you mentioned the lack of instincts may not allow him to play w/ physicality. Either way this is the year he must produce.

I know his speed was good at 4.59, but I didn't realize the explosiveness in the jumps was so good. That being said, Gutey had to see something in his tape that made him want to move up for him. He does like the guys w/ elite athleticism, but he's got to see it on the game tape too.

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gkarl's picture

June 22, 2020 at 07:31 am

Really Burks has had the opportunity to make an impact for this team since he was drafted. Sure he has been derailed by injuries his first to years but even after coming back he has been unable to overtake the JAGs in front of him.

We all want him to develop to his potential, I sure hope he does and can, but he's certainly on the bubble TY if he doesn't start producing.

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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2020 at 11:10 pm

Injuries like his in training camps are really devastating and prevent him from getting the reps he needs to develop. So even tho he returned to the field, but that point it became to hard to be able to teach him. Game planning takes precedence in the season, not the development of a player.

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stockholder's picture

June 22, 2020 at 07:40 am

He was Compared to Joe Thomas. While Ryan and CM3 both knew what they were doing. Burks doesn't. This was a bad trade up by Gutey. His tape didn't justify trading up for him. Let alone drafting him! Burks won't ever be more then a substitute. For me, it's another safety before Burks any day. The list just keeps revolving.

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Lphill's picture

June 22, 2020 at 07:43 am

Burks is better suited for safety than inside linebacker he is not big enough to stop the run , I think his time on the Packers is coming to an end.

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Coldworld's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:16 am

We have a big opening at Hybrid behind Greene. Burke’s is considerably bigger than Greene. So I don’t follow your rationale. That is in addition to his potential as a cover ILB on passing plays even were you correct. He just has to show he can play and stay healthy. Not a given clearly on either point, but the opportunities are definitely there if he can.

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dobber's picture

June 22, 2020 at 11:24 am

So all these guys that we (and including you) have been saying the Packers should be drafting over the last couple years (including Patrick Queen this year) have been inadequate on a size basis for the position from the get-go?

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Lphill's picture

June 22, 2020 at 06:12 pm

Queen is a true linebacker , read Burks draft analysis it says he’s a player with no definitive position.

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dobber's picture

June 22, 2020 at 09:30 pm

"he is not big enough to stop the run "

Queen is 6'1", 225.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:23 am

I think Burks needs an opportunity to show what he can do in game action. I get that each of his first 2 years he has gotten hurt in the preseason, which is why he hasn't made it onto the field. That being said he is a guy that could really change our defense. He has the speed and could be a missing link we need. We really need to move on from those slow LB's. The Morrison and Goodsons of the world. We need to have guys that can play in coverage and can go sideline to sideline.

If Burks can stay healthy, this could be the year we finally are able to see what he can do on the field. My question is, will Pettine give him that chance? He seems to favor going with extra DB's then extra LB's. If Kirksey is the top ILB, will he go another ILB or another S?

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Handsback's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:30 am

Burks hasn't had the best luck. Two years, two major injuries has kept his play to the marginal side of the ball. These injuries are two fold, they keep him on the bench and won't allow any training that would strengthen his body for that position.
The team coaches must have reviewed the practice film of him and decided he has shown the ability, he just needs to be healthy. There is no way they keep him if not the case. The Martinez release is very odd to me UNLESS the reason lies in a couple of players on the roster that are ready to make an impact. Burks makes the most sense that the team is looking at to make that jump.
Or, I can be wrong and the team doesn't want to admit they made a mistake and Burks is on the squad only because of his draft status.....and I just don't think they would do that.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 22, 2020 at 09:21 am

Martinez was not released.

the reason he is no longer in GB?

$$$$$$$$$$ million/yr

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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2020 at 11:17 pm

Burks seems pretty well muscled up to me. IMO what has hurt is being injured during training camp when the coachs have the ability to coach and teach him what he needs to learn. During the season game planning is by far the biggest most important function for asst coaches. They don't have time to teach once the season starts. Burks was always going to be a player that had to learn and develop as an ILB. Missing so much in training camp has really set him back.

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Lphill's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:41 am

I just went back and read some scouting reports from his draft, no true position, trouble shedding blocks, a possible late round pick with special teams potential. Yet the Packers make him a 3 rd round pick.

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splitpea1's picture

June 22, 2020 at 11:06 am

Another scouting report: "...Burks put on a great performance at the combine....Someone might fall in love with his measurables and pull the trigger earlier than expected." LOL, it's Gute all over.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 23, 2020 at 07:43 pm

Stats in underwear do not mesh with the film of him being bulldozed off the planet by 'Bama, Georgia and Miss State linemen to name just a few of the SEC offensive lines that mowed him down. Another striking miss to gutter ball by Ted Junior. You would have thought the Josh Jones fiasco would have cleared his mind of RAS scores and tuned him into the film. No chance.

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Coldworld's picture

June 22, 2020 at 12:50 pm

It always bothers me when people cherry pick to support spurious “facts.” I’m far from a Burks proponent, but the following goes some way to redress the picture you chose to paint;

“ ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr lists Vanderbilt LB Oren Burks as his favorite inside linebacker prospect.
Kiper notes Burks versatility, as the 6-foot-3, 223-pound linebacker also played safety while with the Commodores. "He has good instincts and the athleticism to cover tight ends and backs leaking out of the backfield," he notes. He projects Burks to in the third-to-fourth round range, and someone who believes he can be a starter at the MIKE position could select him on Day”

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splitpea1's picture

June 22, 2020 at 02:42 pm

Of course people are going to cherry pick points when making their arguments--it's natural human behavior to support their opinions in this way.

Here's a brief rebuttal from Raiderswire that goes contrary to Mel Kiper and his mock draft concerning the Raiders: "Burks is rated as Draftwire's No. 11 linebacker and has plenty of holes in his game making him a clear reach here in Round 3....."

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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2020 at 11:46 pm

I'm no fan of Kipers but I would take his opinion over that of some fan / schmuck on a fan blog all day, every day!

IMO he simply lacks the physicality at ILB, but that has really shown over 2 injury marred seasons.

Raiderswire? Are you serious? Comon maan.

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TheVOR's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:02 am

He's a nice guy, he can't help it if he's just not a starting caliber NFL football player, or that he doesn't possess an NLF body. He wasn't the answer, and when GB sees how badly they blew it by not securing genuine talent at ILB over the last 3 seasons, everyone will be looking at that Jordan Love pick, knowing Queen was sitting there, and there will be gnashing of teeth. Here's the worst part for me personally, I was not a big advocate for Queen building up to the draft, yet after realizing Murray wasn't going to fall to us, I thought for sure they'd take a shot at Queen, he's certainly better than Burks. Nope! They've been clambering for this guy for now his 3rd year in the NFL. Hint, if we haven't seen it by now, we're not going to. We've seen exactly what Burks is! He's a deep depth bubble special teams player at best. Sadly GB ignored genuine talent in the last 2 drafts to fix this issue.

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Bure9620's picture

June 23, 2020 at 06:43 am

Queen has not played a down........

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Leatherhead's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:13 am

Burks is a classic example of overvaluing speed and athletic ability, just like Josh Jones and Quentin Rollins.

You need smart, tough football players. Draft those guys.

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Bure9620's picture

June 23, 2020 at 06:45 am

Quentin Rollins did not have a ton of speed. He was in the 4.5 range

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 23, 2020 at 07:45 pm

He was a basketball player, not a guy to spend a two pick on, regardless of his safety play for One year in the MAC.

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ricky's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:20 am

The Packers signed two free agents who have serious injury histories, and are apparently both will be starters. Kirksey (nine games in two seasons is a serious source of concern), and Rick Wagner, who also seems to be in the "injury prone" category. And with Covid looming, we can only hope that the Packers depth is good enough to handle the "next man up" that is going to be inevitable. The right side of the OL, in particular, looks "iffy", with Wagner and Turner there- neither of whom is known for being in the upper echelon at their position. So, Burks will indeed have a chance to finally show he's not a bust- but there are other areas where the Packers are moving along on a wish and a prayer.

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ricky's picture

June 22, 2020 at 10:20 am

The Packers signed two free agents who have serious injury histories, and are apparently both will be starters. Kirksey (nine games in two seasons is a serious source of concern), and Rick Wagner, who also seems to be in the "injury prone" category. And with Covid looming, we can only hope that the Packers depth is good enough to handle the "next man up" that is going to be inevitable. The right side of the OL, in particular, looks "iffy", with Wagner and Turner there- neither of whom is known for being in the upper echelon at their position. So, Burks will indeed have a chance to finally show he's not a bust- but there are other areas where the Packers are moving along on a wish and a prayer.

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wildbill's picture

June 22, 2020 at 08:07 pm

Hmm many times I’ve read the term “injury prone” used to describe Bulaga, but we would be very happy if he was our starting right tackle this year.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 22, 2020 at 11:38 am

Ricky Wagner is injury prone.??

Over the last six seasons, he’s started 85 of a possible 96 games. How do you think that compares with Bulaga?

This guy, like Turner , was hand-picked by the 1265 brass after watching his game film against NFL competition over a period of several years. Do you think they’re so stupid that they signed a couple of stiffs?

If you do some research, you’ll see both of these guys are solid, proven guys who are generally regarded as above average run blockers. And we’ve got Lane Taylor for depth.

The right side of this line isn’t shaky. When we line up Marcedes Lewis to the right and give the ball to Dillon, you’re not going to think it’s shaky.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 23, 2020 at 07:48 pm

Runyan will be fighting for a RT job, or backup, despite the Pack mis-playing him at guard.

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Mike Rossmeier's picture

June 22, 2020 at 12:08 pm

Yes - lack of instincts was the college report on him. He may never be the No. 1 linebacker, but if put in a defined role, hope he can do well.

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dobber's picture

June 22, 2020 at 01:04 pm

Agreed: many of those reports indicate that he's played too many positions and roles in his college career, and that he's not had a chance to develop in any one. I think that reinforces that the Packers drafted an athlete and not so much a finished player. As others have mentioned, his injuries have kept him out of large chunks of camp which means he's missing further opportunities to grow...and probably won't get that this year. Nick Perry had the same kind of problems, but made strides once he got a full off-season and camp in.

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Stroh's picture

June 23, 2020 at 10:46 pm

I'm curious why the author doesn't recognize that Burks and Kirksey can be on the field at the same time?! He acts as if only one ILB can be on the field. It would probably be Pettine's preference to have both on the field and remove the Safety being disguised as an ILB. He's been hampered by injuries in TC each of his 1st 2 seasons and the Packers did bring in others who might take that job alongside Kirksey. Its my guess that Burks is going to be given every chance to make the job his. He's uniquely qualified athletically to be the best coverage ILB for the Packers, if he can stay on the field and show why the Packers chose him in the 3rd rd.

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