Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict wasn’t drafted last spring, and he didn’t play a single snap for the Bengals in Week 1.But going into the playoffs, no defensive player in the NFL has a bigger impact when he’s on the field that Burfict does for the Bengals.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, the disparity between Cincinnati’s defensive stats when Burfict is on and off the field is the biggest of any NFL player:
“There were 230 players this season who were on field for at least 500 plays and off the field for 100-or-more plays. In that sample, no player’s team took a bigger hit when going off field than the Bengals did with Burfict.”
The Bengals give up 2.4 more yards per play, 2.8 more yards per rush, and 2.4 more yards per pass when Burfict is out of the game.
defence is by far Cincinnati’s biggest strength, and if they’re going to upset the Texans tomorrow, it’ll be because they shut down Matt Schaub and Arian Foster. They rank 6th in total defence, 8th in points allowed, and Football Outsiders’ advanced defensive efficiency metric has them as the 3rd best defence in the league.
So how did Burfict go from undrafted rookie to budding star?
He has always had the talent. Coming out at high school he was the #1-rated linebacker and the #9 overall player in his recruiting class.
But he had an up and down college career in which he developed a reputation for being a borderline player. USC QB Matt Barkley went so far as to call him “dirty.”
And then everything fell apart for Burfict at the NFL combine. He was out of shape, and ran a glacially slow 40-yard dash. He also reportedly failed a marijuana test, and one scout told CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman:
“I wouldn’t touch him. He does have some talent, but he is so undisciplined on and off the field. The guy is completely out of control. There’s no way you could trust him. I can’t believe they (ASU coaching staff) didn’t cut him loose.”
But in the NFL, talent wins.
Cincy took a flyer on Burfict after the draft, he worked his way into the lineup, and now he’s an incredibly important part of his team’s most important unit.
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