How Oren Burks Helps the Packers Defense

Rookie Oren Burks will likely make his regular season debut against the Redskins.

Rookie Oren Burks will likely make his regular season debut against the Redskins.

Oren Burks is set to make his return to the Packers roster against the Redskins on Sunday, one of three young players (along with Aaron Jones and Josh Jones) making their 2018 debut this week.

Burks had figured to play a big role in the Packers defense early this year, but a shoulder injury late in the preseason has pushed back his debut. Now that he’s ready to hit the field, here’s a few things to keep in mind about the 2018 third round pick.

What we know about Packers rookie Oren Burks

Linebacker Oren Burks is a terrific athlete, and was one of the rookies we identified as a fit for the Packers based on his athletic profile.

The Packers selected him in the third round despite questions about where he might fit on an NFL defense. 

Here’s our profile on Burks from after the 2018 NFL Draft:

Burks started his collegiate career as a safety. He played twelve games at that position in 2015 before moving to linebacker, where his 6-3, 233 pound frame made him a great fit for the modern college game.

That size, though, makes him a questionable fit at the next level. He doesn’t really have a defined position, but considering how sub packages have taken over the NFL, there may be a good opportunity for him on passing downs.

Burks is considered a good cover man and fits the Packers’ athletic and agility thresholds well. In fact, his agility drill times would rank pretty well among Packers defensive backs, much less linebackers.

His three-cone drill time of 6.82 seconds ties A.J. Hawk’s time from 2006, the best a Packers linebacker has ever recorded, and his 4.15 second short shuttle time is the best of any Packers linebacker. Both of those marks rank comfortably in the top ten among Packers defensive backs since 2005.

What to expect from Burks on Sunday

We posited on the most recent episode of Blue 58 that Oren Burks could be this week’s X-factor on defense. That’s despite Mike McCarthy’s insistence that Burks will be limited to special teams.

Hopefully, Mike Pettine sees things differently and gives Burks some time on defense, because the Packers could surely use him there. The Redskins are well-equipped to attack the slower parts of the Packers’ defense, especially with running back Chris Thompson. His 92 receiving yards last week are nearly as much as the Packers have allowed to running backs all season and the Packers could use an athletic defender to slow him down.

In addition to Thompson, the Redskins will also roll out tight end Jordan Reed, who has had success against the Packers in the past.

If he’s in the lineup, Burks will have his work cut out for him.