Heading into the 2024 season there are two areas the Stars must improve upon if they want to find more success than they did last season as they stumbled down the stretch to 4-6. One of the few bright spots on the offensive line has re-signed for the 2024 season after starting nine games for the Stars in 2023.
The Philly Way
The city of Philadelphia is lucky enough to currently have two teams that represent them. They not only represent the city, but they have adopted the blue collar mentality that rings true with most of the population in Philadelphia. With this mindset has come a clear formula to building a team from the trenches out. Last season the team got away from this thought process and focused more on the “skill positions” and somewhat neglected areas of their team. This left them scrambling mid-season when Case Cookus was one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the league.
After the 2023 season was complete PFF put out a list of the highest rated USFL players on every team. Of that list of five players on the Stars roster, so far they have re-signed two of the top three players. With top rated player Adam Rodriguez signing days ago, the Stars turned their attention to the third player on this list in Jake Burton. I expect based on this trend, the next player they are focused on getting back will be guard Shamarious Gilmore the second highest rated player on the roster.
Of all the teams, only three offensive linemen made the top five list on their respective teams, and two of them played for a Philadelphia Stars team that struggled to run the ball, and protect their quarterback all season long. However the tough part of playing offensive line, is that to the casual fan you are 1/5th of a single unit, and it doesn’t matter if you are one of the most dominant players in the league at your position, if the men next to you aren’t, you will be viewed the same way by said fans.
Burton is a valuable piece for the Stars due to his ability to play multiple positions. He was able to play right guard and right tackle in both of his years with the Stars, allowing him to showcase his value to NFL teams. Having spent some time with the Giants in 2021, he played in the 2021 NFL preseason but didn’t play well. He was shuffled between left guard, right guard, and right tackle playing just 49 snaps.
On 29 pass blocking snaps he allowed 3 pressures, 1 hit, and 1 sack. He graded out much better in the run game with a 60.4 but the performance as a whole left him as the odd man out for the Giants. Since then he has been coached by a former NFL offensive line coach, and has improved drastically in both facets of the game. To his credit this development has led directly to Burton seeing more playing time, and more trust from the coaching staff. Hopefully this continues in 2024, and he is able to take the next step toward potentially being in the NFL once again by his fourth season as a professional at just 25 years old. His age certainly helps his case to pry open that NFL window one last time after the 2024 USFL season.
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