The NFL is increasingly valuing pass-rushers to help combat the league's turn toward pass-heavy offenses. The Carolina Panthers might be in the midst of a rebuild on the offensive side of the ball, but they're halfway to solving the biggest issue of the modern NFL: slowing down high-powered offenses with a disruptive defense.
Third-year edge rusher Brian Burns has become one of the premiere young pass-rushers in the league, wreaking havoc as part of one of the league’s most unheralded defenses. The 23-year-old has helped propel the defense into one of the top-ranked units in the NFL even despite its Week 16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Carolina sits at 5-10 on the season and last in the NFC South, however.
“It's been frustrating,” Burns said last week in an interview with PFF. “It's really been disappointing because I feel like we have such a great team and just for the cards not to fall your way or you not to get the results that you want, of course it's gonna be frustrating. But I feel like, as a defense — because I can't really speak for the offense — but I feel like as a defense, I feel like we're still trying to get better because we know there are brighter days ahead.”
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Burns, a team leader and defensive captain in just his third NFL season, is a 2022 NFC Pro Bowl starter who ranks ninth among edge defenders with an 89.2 pass-rush grade in true pass sets. His nine sacks rank 17th in the NFL, and the Florida State product’s 55 total pressures are 22nd. His 74.0 overall pass-rush grade ranks 27th among edge defenders this season, and he’s eighth with 32 defensive stops. The Panthers found a star in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and Burns is on the brink of his first double-digit sack season, which was one of his goals entering 2021.
Brian Burns in true pass sets | 2021
|Pass-rush win %||22.0%||30th|
Making the Pro Bowl was meaningful to Burns because he just missed out on the honor in 2020. It also means a sizable raise, assuming the Panthers wisely pick up his fifth-year option in 2023. Based on OverTheCap’s fifth-year option projections, Burns was projected to make $11.5 million in 2023 before his Pro Bowl nod. After Wednesday’s news, Burns is now set to earn $16.6 million on a fifth-year option.
Burns has dominated over the last two seasons for Carolina as one of the league’s premier pass rushers.
Burns among edge defenders | 2020-21
|Pass Rush Grade||84.7||11th|
|Pass Rush Productivity||8.2||14th|
A BRIGHT FUTURE IN CAROLINA
Beyond Burns, Carolina also rosters the following talented young defensive players: