The Oakland Raiders are counting on Burgess to help improve a defense that ranked No. 30 in the NFL for total defense. More specifically, the Raiders hope that Burgess can improve a pass rush that was mostly invisible last season.
"There's a lot of pressure on me just to work harder," Burgess said. "I don't mind the pressure because I put pressure on myself. I understand what they expect from me. I'm going to do all I can to fulfill what I need to do."
The 26-year old Burgess was a key component in helping the Eagles reach the Super Bowl. The question is: are the Raiders getting someone who can really help them or are they getting a flash in the pan?
"He's a complete player," Raiders head coach Norv Turner said of Burgesss. "We're going to play him as much as we can. Some of it will depend on who we're playing and what type of offense they're playing but the good thing is we're going to have depth. He's got a great work ethic."
Burgess record three sacks as many postseason games for the Eagles, including two of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick in the NFC championship game. Burgess started 11 of the Eagles 12 regular season games but recorded just 2.5 sacks. Burgess also received the Ed Block Courage Award for his efforts in returning from injury.
Nonetheless, his playoff performance got him noticed when the free agency period came.
"It was real big," Burgess said. "I kept pushing and working. I got back on the left side and that helped me a whole lot."
As a rookie in 2001, Burgess ranked second in the NFC and fifth in the NFL among rookies with six sacks.
"It was hard to leave Philly because they drafted me," Burgess said. "I had been there for four years. I went through some injuries and they stuck by me the whole time."
The Raiders could use all the help they can get with improving their pass rush. Granted, sacks do not always tell the entire story with pressuring quarterbacks but when you record the second fewest sacks in the NFL at 25, that does not say much about your ability to get to opposing quarterbacks. Even that total, however, is somewhat inflated because seven of those sacks came against then-Buffalo Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe, whose mobility will never be confused with Randall Cunningham.
"Anything that'll make us better, I'm with it," Burgess said.
Vince D'Adamo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org