Can Oren Burks be a factor in Eagles' reshaped linebacker room?

The Eagles on Sunday signed Oren Burks to a one-year deal.

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If you only remember Oren Burks from the Super Bowl, yeah, it’s easy to wonder what the Eagles were thinking signing him.

It was Burks who replaced Dre Greenlaw when he tore his Achilles jogging onto the field in the second quarter of Super Bowl LVIII vs. the Chiefs last month.

The Chiefs understandably went after Burks, and Patrick Mahomes was 7-for-7 for 46 yards when Burks was the primary defender. But putting it in context, three-time all-pro Fred Warner, the 49ers’ other linebacker, allowed 11 passes on 12 targets in that game for 91 yards. Mahomes does this to everybody.

But that was the exception and not the rule. 

Burks was very good in coverage all year, allowing a passer rating of 61.4 on 22 targets, with 15 completions but for just 113 yards.

According to Stathead, he had the 2nd-best defensive passer rating among 81 linebackers who were targeted at least 20 times during the regular season. Only Deion Jones of the Panthers, a former Pro Bowler, had a lower rating.

That’s the Oren Burks the Eagles believe they are getting.

For the sake of comparison, the lowest defender passer rating any Eagles linebacker had in 2023 was Zach Cunningham’s 93.9.

“Man, it's the highest stage in sport,” Burks said of the 49ers' loss to the Chiefs in Las Vegas. “I tried to be as ready as possible. Ultimately, we didn't get the job done at the end, but I feel like for that, just getting a taste of that Super Bowl, you want to get back, it just makes you really hungry. 

“This team has been close to (winning) a Super Bowl a couple years ago, as well. So I definitely get the vibe that everybody's ready to take that next step.”

The Eagles on Sunday signed Burks to a one-year budget deal worth up to $2.5 million as they continue to reshape the linebacker position.

This wasn’t one of Howie Roseman’s blockbuster moves, but it’s an interesting one. Burks, originally the Packers’ 3rd-round pick back in 2018, has started 15 games in six seasons – he has one interception, 2.0 sacks, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and 176 tackles on just under 1,000 career defensive snaps. He’s also an accomplished special teams player.

Where does he fit in?

He’ll be a core special teamer and since nobody is guaranteed a spot at off-ball linebacker he could be in the mix for playing time there as well.

Nicholas Morrow, Zach Cunningham, Shaquille Leonard and Christian Elliss, who combined for 26 starts and 1,834 snaps last year, are all gone, leaving just Nakobe Dean and Ben VanSumeren from last year’s linebacker group. 

So far, the Eagles have added former Buccaneer Devin White, the fifth pick in 2019; former Saint Zack Baun, who could be here as an edge and not an off-ball linebacker, started 14 games over the last four seasons; and Burks. Presumably, there’s more coming, but Burks believes he can be a factor on defense.

“I’m just going to add value wherever I can, whether that’s on special teams, defense, wherever I can,” he said at the NovaCare complex on Tuesday. “I know the type of player I am. They obviously liked my tape enough to bring me here. I know they see something in me I know I can bring to the table.

“The defensive line here is amazing so as a linebacker who wouldn’t want to play behind this d-line? And then the culture, wanting to win, playing at a high level, those are the kinds of things I looked at.

“Obviously, they’ve played at a high level here for a long time and I just liked the situation in the linebacker room and special teams-wise and then just the culture as well. It’s just a good fit.”

Burks spent the last two years with the 49ers after four years in Green Bay, and he played more on defense last year than he ever had - about 22 snaps per game.

“I feel like my tape kind of just jumped off the table going from Year 1 and Year 2 in the system,” he said. “The opportunity came up where Azeez (Al-Shaair) left (for the Titans), and I stepped into that third linebacker role. And then whenever my name was called, I was ready to step up and play. 

“So I feel like for me, just always being ready when the opportunity comes up. That's what I kind of pride myself on. And ultimately, just effort. I'm going to give it everything I've got, every play. And I think that showed up on tape.”

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