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Deconstructing Derrick Burgess … again

08.06.09 at 5:56 pm ET
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Burgess joined the Patriots Thursday.

Back in May when talk of Derrick Burgess-to-the-Patriots first surfaced, I spoke with a handful of football insiders who talked about what kind of impact he could have on the New England defense. Here’s a portion of that blog post, which can be found in its entirety here.

Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders and Brian Baldinger, an analyst for the NFL Network, agree that while Derrick Burgess isn’t the same player he was back in 2005 or 2006 when he had a combined 27 sacks in Oakland, if the Patriots plug him into the right scheme, the 30-year-old could still do plenty of damage as an outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 defense.

“The resume is on tape — he’s got good quickness and good, explosive power,” Baldinger said. “That’s exactly what you need in a pass rusher.”

Burgess has managed 38½ sacks in his last four years with the Raiders, including a league-high 16 in 2005. But Tanier, a contributing editor to FootballOutsiders.com and co-author of the Pro Football Prospectus, believes that the wear and tear of playing so many defensive snaps the last few years for a subpar team like the Raiders has taken a toll on his body. As a result, his sack totals have decreased steadily the last four years.

“Burgess’ sack totals are in a four-year decline and he missed parts of the last two seasons with injuries,” said Tanier of Burgess, who has been hobbled by foot injuries over the course of his career. “He’s been an undersized 4-3 end for his entire career, and all the battles against offensive tackles have taken their toll.

“The Raiders haven’t had the talent in the last few years to spot him, so he’s been in the lineup for nearly every defensive snap when healthy. That’s not good for a 260-pound end.”

“He wasn’t very productive last year, but no one on the Oakland defense had a good year last year, other than [cornerback] Nnamdi Asomugha,” Baldinger said. “I think he could be a good, solid player. I don’t know if he’s an every down guy, but not many are these days.”

However, he still has a big upside. Tanier says Burgess is an “underrated” run defender, and offers a statistical argument: According to Football Outsiders, he made 18 tackles on running plays, and 15 of them qualified as “stops,” meaning he tackled the running back for a minimal gain. His 2007 numbers (33 run tackles, 28 stops) are similar.

“Burgess is very good at flattening out and making plays from the backside,” Tanier said. “If the running back is running right, Burgess can chase him from the left side of the formation and make the stop.”

In the end, Tanier believes the Patriots would not be getting a true replacement for Mike Vrabel. However, as a situational pass rusher, Burgess would certainly fill the bill.

“Vrabel could do some things in coverage that Burgess cannot, and Vrabel had experience playing off the line of scrimmage as a traditional linebacker on run downs,” Tanier said. “Burgess fits better in the old Rosie Colvin-Willie McGinest role as the linebacker who plays in a three-point stance wide of the left tackle on passing downs.

“He should probably be thought of as a situational pass rusher who gets 25 to 30 snaps at this point in his career. With that kind of workload, he can register six to seven sacks.”

“New England needs pass rushers, and I don’t know if they’ve replaced [Vrabel],” Baldinger said. “Burgess is not really a standup linebacker. But he’d be a good pass rusher in the New England defense.”

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