Cowboys Add Willing Volunteer

While he certainly must be considered a value pick, Tennesee LB Kevin Burnett may not be guaranteed a starting spot next year in the Cowboys' defense. <BR>

The Cowboys' desire to improve their defense continued in the second round with the selection of Tennessee linebacker Kevin Burnett (6-3, 239, 4.61) last Saturday.

One of two Tennessee players (along with offensive lineman Mike Muñoz) to be elected team captain in consecutive seasons, Burnett will bring speed and brutal hitting to the Cowboys during his rookie season. And good news is, that in three picks, Dallas has likely added three players who could play -- if not start -- as soon as the season opener.

The one question about remains Burnett however, and a possible reason why he lasted until the second round, is the fact that he had his knee rebuilt in 2002. However since his return, he's been a very effective linebacker for the Volunteers, piling up 120 total tackles during his final season in Knoxville.

Burnett is not a blazing runner like a LaVar Arrington or Brian Urlacher, but he does run well, especially laterally, allowing him to make plays from sideline to sideline. He also has good strength and plays very low, making him tough to knock off his feet.

At Tennessee, he often dropped into coverage. He didn't rush the passer a lot, but was fairly effective when he did, collecting a sack and numerous quarterback hurries.

Burnett is also not a shoo-in starter like DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears.

But he greatly improves the depth of a linebacker unit in which the other players nearly assured of a spot are Ware, Dat Nguyen, Al Singleton and Kalen Thornton. Beyond that quartet (quintet, including Burnett), nobody appears guaranteed of making the team.

The Cowboys were last in the NFL last year in generating plays for negative yardage for opposing offenses. The secondary can be called out for not making enough takeaways, but there is little doubt that next year, the secondary will improve simply because of the addition of three new playmakers in the front seven in Burnett, Ware, and Spears.

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