4 key matchups to watch against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Christian McCaffrey /
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Carolina Panthers
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Brian Burns /

Brian Burns vs. Donovan Smith

Much was expected of Brian Burns when he took the field against the Raiders. The second-year defensive end should make considerable strides in his sophomore campaign and the Carolina Panthers placed a tremendous amount of faith in their 2019 first-round selection by parting ways with several veteran defensive linemen this offseason.

To say things got off to a disappointing start would be something of an understatement. Burns was unable to generate any sort of pressure against the formidable Las Vegas line and more will be needed going forward if the player wants to reach his lofty ceiling.

There should be more opportunities for Burns to showcase his outstanding skillset against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will be coming up prominently against left tackle Donovan Smith, who gave up six sacks last year and followed this up by allowing one quarterback takedown at the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs might have plenty of dynamic offensive weapons to call upon. But their protection leaves a lot to be desired. If Burns can generate some early momentum against Smith and make Tom Brady think twice about how long he is holding onto the football, then the better Carolina’s chances will be.

It would not be a surprise to see Burns raise his level of performance from Week 1. Players normally take a couple of games to get themselves up to speed even with a preseason. So the Panthers’ pass-rusher should be given the benefit of the doubt ahead of an enticing Week 2 matchup across the line of scrimmage from Smith.