As another lost New York Jets season unfolds, it’s time to evaluate this 53-man roster. This daily ranking continues with No. 18, linebacker James Burgess Jr.
Last May, New York Jets coach Adam Gase brought in his fleeting former Miami Dolphins linebacker of 2016, James Burgess Jr. — who after two injury-plagued years with the Cleveland Browns literally came from out of nowhere to be the big success stories of this team’s seven-win 2019 season.
Burgess — the undrafted Miami-bred, Louisville-educated son of ex Oakland Raiders/Kansas City Chiefs/San Diego Chargers linebacker James Burgess — was released by the New York Jets after 2019 training camp’s final cuts.
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It was the eighth time that an NFL team had cut the 25-year-old. But after the opening game season-ending groin injury to C.J. Mosley, Gang Green re-signed Burgess to their practice squad.
After six weeks in career limbo, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound “mad-backer” stepped in gallantly for a decimated linebacker crew that included the IR’d Mosley, Avery Williamson, Blake Cashman and Albert McClellan (as well as at the time, an injured Neville Hewitt).
In this season’s final 10 games, Burgess — on-field for all 662 defensive snaps of their final nine contests — amassed a team-leading 51 solo tackles and 17 tackles for loss, along with one interception and 1.5 sacks from his interior linebacking position.
Yes, he gets destroyed by tight ends over the middle (see Mike Gesicki of Miami’s 95 receiving yards against Burgess in Week 6). But he will certainly wind up being ex-Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan’s best $645,000 investment.
Burgess had the following to say about his 2019 season.
“I feel really proud of this team and this organization. Obviously finishing 6-2 after starting 1-7, it takes a special team to do that. So I’m just excited about our future for us. The Jets will have to deal with my free agency. But I would really love to be back with this team. I love it here, man.”
The feeling is mutual with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who salivates over Burgess’ gridiron IQ and on-field intensity — particularly the baller’s tireless physicality in the trenches against the run.
Expect for New York Jets current general manager Joe Douglas to do the right thing and return this quality restricted free agent depth piece into the green-and-white fold for the 2020 season and beyond.