It was old times and new times for Derrick Burgess on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. The faces are different, but the job description is the same: Use speed and energy and his relentless motor to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. And behind it. Signed to a two-year deal to replace the injured Brandon Graham, Burgess is expected to come right in and play.
How much he plays depends on what kind of football shape he is in. The former Eagle last played for New England in 2009 and wasn't on a roster since the regular season began. He reportedly considered retiring from the game in July and then re-joined the Patriots after free agency generated only mild interest, but he did not make the Patriots' 53-man roster.
We'll learn more about Burgess when he meets the media on Wednesday, but the Eagles certainly think they have something to work with. They bypassed players who had been on rosters this season – Adewale Ogunleye and Bobby McCray, to name two – to bring Burgess back to the fold.
If he is anything close to the player he was after leaving the Eagles in 2004, they have added a player who brings some punch off the edge. Punch and experience. Down the stretch, a pair of fresh legs and a hungry soul comes in handy.
What can we realistically expect from Burgess? It obviously depends on what he shows in practice and, of course, when the lights go in against the Giants, but his history suggests that Burgess could be a perfect complement to what the Eagles want to do up front. Burgess is the fourth defensive end in the rotation here. He backs up Juqua Parker on the left side and can probably help on the right side, too, as the Eagles mix in Trent Cole, Parker, and Darryl Tapp.
It isn't outrageous to suggest that the Eagles have actually upgraded their depth in this short-season scenario. They don't need Burgess for 16 games. He isn't going to wear down over the course of the next three weeks and, hopefully, the month after that. Burgess uses his hands well, he comes off the line of scrimmage nicely and he has been in the playoff picture many times in his career.
Hopefully, he makes up for missed time with the Eagles. His was an injury-riddled career in Philadelphia prior to leaving in free agency and immediately becoming a sack machine in Oakland. Burgess recorded 16 sacks in 2005, 11 in 2006 and 8 in 2007 before injuries reduced him to 10 games (and 3 ½ sacks) in 2008) before moving on to the Patriots. Burgess played outside linebacker there in the 3-4 and didn't fit in well and, as the reports indicated, lost some of his fire in the off-season.
That fire is back. This is a perfect time to jump right back in to a system that he knows. Sean McDermott has added his own personality to a defense crafted by Jim Johnson, and Burgess knows exactly what his responsibilities were starting for the Eagles under Johnson.
Burgess isn't here to be a Pro Bowl end. If it works out that way, great. What a bonus that would be. We're thinking small picture here. Burgess is here to add energy, to chase down the quarterback and to make plays. First target: Eli Manning. It is just like old times, new times for Burgess, who jumps right back into where he wants to be: Running hard after quarterbacks, and chasing a playoff spot.
The Eagles have tracked Burgess since he left Philadelphia. If he still has his spark, he is a great fit, because the Eagles just want him to play limited snaps and get off the ball and cause problems. Let's see how he does. The Eagles have made some astute personnel moves to find players to fill roles – Colt Anderson has been a stopper on special teams – and let's hope this is another feather in the cap of the personnel department.