I discussed Marvin Burdette last week in my article covering the 10 players most likely to shine this preseason.
Now I take a closer look at the Redskins' linebacker.
Marvin Burdette loves contact. That is the first impression I got from watching video of him.
The second is that he makes correctable mistakes. The inside linebacker, who led the entire NCAA in tackles per game last season at 13.08, is hoping that his love of contact is enough for the Washington Redskins to keep him around, and the Redskins are hoping they can correct those mistakes.
Burdette is undersized for a linebacker. UAB listed him at 5’11”, 230 pounds, but NFLdraftscout.com has him at only 5’9”. His stature is a disadvantage as an inside linebacker because there are times when he cannot see the action clearly in the opponent’s backfield. This problem reared its head multiple times in the South Carolina game where Burdette would often chase the decoy on either a read option or play action pass.
However, Burdette’s athleticism allows him to recover quickly in these instances. A track star in high school, Burdette shows impressive lateral agility in games that allows him to become a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker.
One particular play against Southern Miss stands out (4:55 mark of the attached video). The ball carrier recognizes that the designed hole for his run had been filled and attempts to cut back. Burdette sees this and is able to reverse his momentum and cut the ball carrier off before he gains any yards.
When watching tape on Burdette, one thing stands out: he relishes taking on blockers. Often, Burdette would meet a lead blocker head on rather than try to dodge around him. There were moments where he excelled at absorbing the blocker, pushing him to the side, and grabbing the ball carrier. In fact, he seems to catch blockers off guard by rushing at them rather than waiting to be blocked. This is a skill that could translate well to the NFL where selfless players like this allow their teammates to have free runs at the ball carrier.
It is hard to discern this from only watching tape on a player, but Burette appears to be a very cerebral player. This is not to say that he ignores instinct on the field. His instincts for finding the man with the ball and taking him down are obvious. In a goal line stop against Tulsa, Burdette breaks through the line untouched and then does not hesitate to attack the running back as he is handed the ball. What it does mean is that Burdette appears to learn from his mistakes quickly.
In the South Carolina game, for example, Burdette is beaten badly by a quick screen to the slot receiver. He takes a horrible angle and the gamecocks get a big gain.
Later in that same game, however, South Carolina tries a similar play, and Burdette blows it up by getting to the receiver right when the ball does and causing an incompletion. This gives the impression that Burdette learned from his earlier mistake.
The South Carolina tape is probably the best one to study to see how Burdette will fair in the NFL due to the level of competition. Burdette had seven tackles in the game, including one sack, and forced a fumble by Marcus Lattimore.
There were troubling signs in the game too. Burdette often took poor angles which led to the superior athletes of an SEC school burning him. He made some spectacular plays besides the aforementioned screen blowup, but also some very bad ones (one particular run by Ace Saunders stands out). Overall, it goes back to the mistakes he made being correctable.
Often, athletes cannot learn from their mistakes, and the best coaches in the world make no difference. However, Burdette shows the ability to learn from mistakes and correct them. The redskins clearly saw his obvious talent and believe that they can correct his errors.
Burdette is strictly a run-stopping linebacker. He had only 6.5 sacks and three interceptions during his four-year career, and, while both of those numbers can be opportunity driven, Burdette did little more than tackle ball carriers while at UAB. He was rarely asked to drop back in coverage, but instead either rushed the backfield or played a close-to-the-line zone where he could easily pounce on the ball carrier.
For a 3-4 team such as the Redskins, this is not a problem. Burdette is quick enough to run with most tight ends if forced to, but, more often than not, he will be given the opportunity to do what he does best: hunt down ball carriers. For example, in London Fletcher’s three Pro Bowl seasons in Washington, he never had more than 2.5 sacks or two interceptions.
Fletcher’s presence is another reason why Burdette is on the right team. Fletcher was an undrafted free agent out of John Carroll University back in 1998, and he has gone on to have a fantastic career in the NFL. If there is one person who Burdette should learn from, it is Fletcher.
As far as Burdette’s actual chances of making this team, they are high. While there is no starting spot available (Fletcher and Perry Riley have both inside linebacker spots covered), there is a lack of depth behind them. Burdette could make this team as a backup linebacker and eventual replacement to Fletcher in the middle.