4 Carolina Panthers players who could win individual awards in 2021

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns /

Brian Burns – Carolina Panthers DE

  • NFL Defensive Player of the Year

The level of progression demonstrated by Brian Burns was nothing short of extraordinary. Considered a situational edge rusher during his rookie season in 2019, the former Florida State star worked exceptionally hard on his game away from the gridiron to emerge as a three-down defensive end that could make his presence felt on every down.

Burns was a revelation for the Carolina Panthers last season and there is just no telling what his final stats would have looked like had he finished off plays a little better. There was almost no pass-rush alongside him during the first half of the campaign, so with the acquisitions made by the organization this offseason, another huge trend upward for the first-round pick is a real possibility.

The explosive player will now have the benefit of Haason Reddick – who gained 12.5 sacks last year with the Arizona Cardinals – working from the opposite side of the field. Couple this with two young studs in Derrick Brown and Yetur Gross-Matos, a promising three-technique in Morgan Fox, and a strong linebacker corps, everything is in position for Burns to have an exceptional season in 2021.

Simply put, the sky is the limit for Burns. He was spurned for the Pro Bowl last time out despite outperforming most who were voted in. But the league won’t be able to ignore him for much longer.