Carolina Panthers: Is Juston Burris more than a short-term starter?

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Juston Burris
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Juston Burris /

Can free-agent signing Juston Burris be more than just a short-term starter for the Carolina Panthers at the safety position?

We are now just 31 days away from the Carolina Panthers returning to the field in a competitive setting. This is one of the more intriguing seasons in recent memory for the organization. And a new era is now well and truly underway at training camp.

New head coach Matt Rhule has been working with one hand tied behind his back since arriving with the Carolina Panthers. There has been an unprecedented amount of disruption as fears continue to remain surrounding COVID-19. And this has the potential to hamper them more than most during the initial stages of the campaign.

Their dead cap figure of more than $40 million is comfortably the league’s highest and restricted the Panthers in their moves during free agency. But they did manage to pick up some players who can make an instant impact.

Continuing our countdown feature ahead of the new season, we now turn our attention to Carolina’s No. 31. Juston Burris was a notable arrival during the free agency period. And there is every chance he can be a plug and play starter for the Panthers in 2020.

Juston Burris should fit right in with the Carolina Panthers.

The safety is back home after spending his college career with North Carolina. And Burris is coming off the best season of his fledgling career to date.

He saw the field for 37.8 percent of the Cleveland Browns’ defensive snaps in 2019. And this saw the player secure 32 combined tackles, 26 solo tackles, two interceptions, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, seven pass deflections, and an eye-catching 69.4 grade from Pro Football Focus.

This was not enough to earn Burris an extended stay in Cleveland. But the Panthers tied him down to a two-year, $8 million contract that included a $2.1 million signing bonus and a further $2.1 million guaranteed to ensure he was not without a team for long.

Burris could be set to start alongside Tre Boston at the safety spot for Carolina’s Week 1 clash against the Las Vegas Raiders. Much will depend on how the organization decides to use Jeremy Chinn early on. But with the rookie not having a preseason to acclimatize himself with the rigors of the next level. It might be prudent for the franchise to go with experience over youth initially.

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The former fourth-round pick is gifted athletically. And he has no trouble operating as a cover safety in special packages.

This sort of versatility was sought heavily by the Panthers this offseason. So it is not hard to figure out just what attracted them to a player such as Burris.

With the presence of Chinn and fifth-round pick Kenny Robinson, there will plenty of pressure on Burris to perform. This is something he is all-too-aware of going into the campaign. And this increased sense of urgency with two rookies breathing down his neck should be all the motivation that the player needs.

Burris arrives in Carolina with plenty of confidence. But it is vital he uses this in a positive way.

A slow start from the safety would result in a reduced role in no time at all. So it will be up to him to make sure that he leaves the coaching staff with no other alternative other than to keep him in the lineup for a prolonged period.

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That might be easier said than done. Burris has plenty to prove despite his veteran status in 2020. And it remains to be seen whether he can become anything more than a short-term starter with the Panthers.