Week 8 spotlight: Can Brian Burns become the Panthers’ best player?

(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns
(Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns /

8.20 PM ET. 1-6. 44. Thursday, October 29. FOX/NFL Network/Amazon. 3-4. 87. Panthers -3

Defensive end Brian Burns has made an impressive start to the season, but could he eventually become the best player on the Carolina Panthers?

The Carolina Panthers have a real player on their hands in Brian Burns. Big things were expected of the second-year-pro heading into his sophomore campaign and it’s safe to say he is thriving with more responsibility on his shoulders.

Burns has everything one looks for in a stud defensive end at the next level. He has made some significant improvements to become a three-down threat and the Carolina Panthers are fortunate to possess a player with the world at his feet.

Although he might not have the sort of sack totals expected from an elite defensive lineman, it’s now evident Burns is trending in the right direction. His explosive skill set is proving to be a nightmare for protection scheme to cope with consistently – something that was evident once again with his blistering strip-sack on Drew Brees during Carolina’s narrow loss at the Saints in Week 7.

The Panthers are getting next to no pressure from elsewhere. This has only increased the focus on Burns, who showed flashes of brilliance during his rookie season with 7.5 sacks despite dealing with a wrist injury.

Carolina will need others to step-up at some stage. But the former Florida State standout has certainly taken his game to new heights through seven weeks of the season.

Brian Burns is an indispensable member of the Carolina Panthers.

Burns already has three sacks, two passes defended, three forced fumbles, eight quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, 15 solo tackles, and 15 pressures to his name this season. He is already the best player on the Panthers defense, but could he emerge as the face of the franchise in the coming years?

The simple answer is yes.

There will always be more focus on offensive players, and Carolina has one exceptional individual in  All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. But you only have to look at the level of esteem in which defensive tackle Aaron Donald is held with the Los Angeles Rams to see that it’s not out of the realms of possibility.

The Panthers have struck gold with Burns, of that there is little doubt. His supreme athletic traits are matched by a fierce work ethic and ability to lead, which is coming over more prominently with every passing game.

This has seen the player become the beating heart of the Panthers’ defense following the shock retirement of iconic linebacker Luke Kuechly. There are some nice pieces around Burns who are developing all the time. So this could be a real area of strength if the decision-makers make some further improvements during a critical offseason period in 2021.

It is hard not to love the way Burns applies himself. He plays the game with a smile on his face and has ruthless aggression to match, which has endeared him to Carolina’s fanbase in a short space of time.

Hopefully, for the player and the Panthers, this is a trend that can continue long into the future. His production will obviously bring about more attention from opposing protection schemes, but Burns has all the tools necessary to cope with this added focus.

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Carolina can now build around a player of Burns’ caliber and if his influence grows during the remainder of the season and beyond, then the sky is the limit.