Oren Burks gets off to fast start in Packers' preseason opener

Kylin Hill, Kabion Ento make the most of their opportunities

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Packers LB Oren Burks sacks Houston Texans QB Davis Mills in the first quarter of Saturday's preseason game at Lambeau Field.

GREEN BAY – The goal was to play faster this season.

When it became apparent Oren Burks would be moving back inside, the Packers' fourth-year linebacker made it a point trust to trust his eyes more and react accordingly.

He hit the target during Saturday night's preseason opener against the Houston Texans.

Although the Packers fell 26-7, Burks appeared more decisive and confident when attacking the line of scrimmage on his way to a team-high six tackles (two for a loss).

Burks, who dabbled at outside linebacker last season, also accounted for the Packers' lone sack when he shot through and dropped Texans quarterback Davis Mills for a 5-yard loss to help force a three-and-out in the second quarter.

"(I'm) feeling extremely confident in this camp," Burks said. "Focus for me this offseason has been trusting my training and believing what I see and playing fast. I felt like that came to fruition in this game."

Burks was called upon to start opposite Krys Barnes, with veteran linebacker De'Vondre Campbell among the 30 players who didn't suit up and Kamal Martin on his way back from a knee injury.

Lambeau Field hosted a preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans on Saturday, Aug. 14, 2021.

The 6-foot-3, 233-pound linebacker quickly went to work, stopping Texans running back Phillip Lindsay for no gain and then combining with Tyler Lancaster on a tackle of Lindsay for a 1-yard loss on third-and-1 during Houston's opening possession.

Burks was flagged for roughing Mills on a bang-bang play late in the second quarter but came back on the next play to pressure the rookie into an incompletion.

The 26-year-old has been a core special-teamer for the Packers since he was drafted in the third around out of Vanderbilt in 2018, but he still aspires to find a consistent role on defense. Performances like Saturday can only help his cause.

"It's definitely slowing down," Burks said. "I feel my playing outside last year helped a little bit becoming a better football player in terms of knowledge and what to anticipate in the run fits and things like that.

"I just really have been attacking this offseason and trying to become a better football player and trusting what I see, playing fast, having that inner confidence."

The other big defensive play came courtesy of second-year cornerback Kabion Ento, who picked off Mills near the sideline with 46 seconds remaining in the first half.

The former Colorado receiver has been transitioning to cornerback for the past two years in Green Bay. Ento has looked the part this summer after returning from the foot injury that sidelined him for the entire 2020 season.

He was the first cornerback off the bench against the Texans, replacing rookie first-round pick Eric Stokes. Ento played most of the second half, though he was held out momentarily following a collision late in the third quarter.

As far as his first INT is concerned, Ento relied on some of his receiver instincts to make a big play.

"It's kind of tough because it happens so fast as a DB," said Ento of his interception. "But when it hits your hands, they expect you to catch it. That's the No. 1 receiver rule and I try not to change that rule for myself even though I'm a DB."

Dream scenario: Kylin Hill heard it time and time again in the team meeting room.

"Be a playmaker."

As Hill pulled down a screen pass from Jordan Love around Houston's 25-yard line early in the second quarter, all the rookie seventh-round pick could think about was finding a way to extend the play to the end zone.

The 22-year-old running back dodged inside center Josh Myers and made another Houston would-be tackler miss before laying out inside the end-zone pylon for the 22-yard touchdown, which doubled as the first official TD pass Love has thrown in the NFL.

"I just seen my guys hitting out of the block. I just told myself I've got to make something happen," Hill said. "I've got to be a playmaker. That's what our coach preaches, be a playmaker, so that was my perfect time to be a playmaker and I delivered."

Afterward, Hill became the first Packers player to execute a Lambeau Leap in nearly 20 months.

"A dream come true," Hill said. "The Lambeau Leap, everybody knows the legacy behind it, if you are a true die-hard football fan, it's been going on for years and decades. For me to finally do that, I'll be able to tell my family down the line that I was actually able to do a Lambeau Leap. So really, a historic moment for me."

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