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Brian Burns Panthers
NFL

Brian Burns Is Entering Elite Territory

  • Jack McKessy
  • November 30, 2022
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He may be playing on a bad, four-win team, but don’t sleep on Carolina Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns. He’s quietly been one of the best defensive ends in the NFL over the last couple of years and deserves more recognition.

Fortunately, he’s starting to get that extra recognition. After a strong season last year featuring nine sacks, 13 tackles for a loss, four passes defended, and two forced fumbles, Burns got his first Pro Bowl nod. More recently, ESPN named the 24-year-old as one of the 25 best players under 25, coming in at No. 11. That’s in no small part because this year, he’s already putting up similar—and in some cases, better—numbers as compared to last season.

Burns has already set a new career high in single-season sacks after recording his 10th of the season against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, tying him for fifth-most in the NFL to this point. No player currently under 25 has as many career sacks as his 35.5 through three and a half seasons. In fact, the Carolina defender is now in the top 15 edge rushers of all time in terms of his production before the age of 25 thanks to those 35.5 sacks, putting him above guys like Von Miller and Panthers legend Julius Peppers. Burns has also already matched his previous career high in tackles for a loss with 13 through 12 games.

The Panthers’ Sunday matchup with Denver featured one of Burns’ best games so far this season with two sacks (including a strip sack), a tackle for a loss, and four total pressures. He extended his streak to four straight games with a sack heading into Carolina’s bye week and got to double-digit sacks for the first time in his career with five games left to play. On Wednesday, he got further recognition as the NFL’s NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 12.

All game, Burns was finding different ways to win at the line of scrimmage to generate pressures and sack opportunities. On his first sack, the fourth-year veteran exploded off of the snap to engage with Denver’s right guard before the lineman had a chance to block him first. As a result, Burns was able to prevent the guard from locking him up under his pads, pushing off of his chestplate with one arm and grabbing his left arm with the other. Once Burns had control of the offensive lineman’s arm, it was over. He pulled it down, ripped through the block attempt with his other arm, and got through Russell Wilson’s attempted stiff arm to bring him down.

On Burns’ second sack, he used a different move, getting a jump on the right tackle by faking his head toward the inside before moving to the outside and dipping his shoulder under the block. Even when it looked like the offensive lineman had done enough to take Burns out of the play by forcing him further upfield, Burns was still just close enough to reach out with his long right arm to strip the ball away from Wilson as he broke his hands to make a throw. A good move and great effort from the veteran defender prevented the Broncos from getting to the red zone for a game-tying touchdown situation before the half.

Even when Burns didn’t get to the quarterback in time, he showed off his other impressive moves. One was a nice long arm on the left tackle, nearly bench-pressing the offensive lineman with one hand to get to Wilson right after he made the throw. Another was a great bull rush that knocked back the right tackle even after getting chipped on a block by the tight end.

Burns has shown off an impressive ability to get to the quarterback using a variety of moves this year, and the sacks production is starting to show up in bunches. Even without any other real threats from the defenders around him (no other defender has even five sacks), the fourth-year player still has been able to get things done on his own—much like Maxx Crosby in Las Vegas. Burns deserves tons of credit for what he’s been able to accomplish on the Panthers’ defense not only this year but in his previous three seasons. There should be no doubts in the Carolina front office about giving him his bag when extension talks begin.

Written By

Jack McKessy