Don’t sleep on Brian Burns for Defensive Player of the Year in 2021

Dean Jones
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Brian Burns /

Carolina Panthers stud edge rusher Brian Burns could be in with a chance of winning the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2021.

There could be plenty more to come from the Carolina Panthers in 2021. The roster is stacked with young, talented individuals who could make serious strides next season, with much of the expectations lying on the shoulders of stud defensive end Brian Burns.

The former Florida State standout made some notable improvements to his game last summer. Burns emerged from a rotational pass-rusher in his rookie campaign to a formidable three-down edge presence who was capable of causing havoc on any given down.

Burns is now regarded as one of the league’s brightest prospects at the position. Providing he makes the necessary adjustments before competitive action comes around once again, the Panthers can expect even better things from him in Year 3, which is normally a strong indicator of what to expect from a player long-term.

One former NFL pro and current analyst is expecting Burns to thrive within Phil Snow’s scheme in 2021.

Darius Butler expects Brian Burns to thrive for the Carolina Panthers in 2021.

Darius Butler, who played nine seasons with the New England Patriots, Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts, is tipping the 2019 first-round pick for great things. He even selected Burns as the best long-shot to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

In terms of targets, Butler said he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Burns hit the 16-17 sack mark with more in the way of talent around him in Carolina. This would be a significant rise from his career-high of nine last time out, but double-digits is more than a realistic option for a pivotal part of the Panthers’ defense.

Burns gets to the spot incredibly fast. Almost too quick for his own good at times.

Once the player learns how to be more efficient and finish off plays a little better, the sky is the limit.

Having Haason Reddick on the opposite side of the line is a massive boost that cannot be overlooked. The free-agent signing from the Arizona Cardinals is coming off a 12.5-sack season in 2020 and if he proves this wasn’t a flash in the pan, Burns should get more space to work in.

Couple this with two space-eaters manning the interior in Derrick Brown and DaQuan Jones, and it’s not hard to see why Burns is fancied to enter a completely different stratosphere next season.

Burns is also taking on the role of leader this offseason. Something head coach Matt Rhule saw from him progressively over the second half of the previous campaign.

He has been active on the field at voluntary OTAs and mandatory minicamp despite being unable to participate due to a clean-up procedure. Burns being on hand to assist in any way he can is a further testament to his commitment, passion, and will to drive the Panthers on to a possible postseason berth moving forward.

It’s hard not to love the way Burns goes about his business.

However, winning Defensive Player of the Year might be a stretch.

What’s perhaps more important is putting together the sort of consistency that makes the defense become a dominant group. Burns and the Panthers are going to be extremely fun to watch, but that will count for nothing if more wins don’t follow.

Superstardom is awaiting Burns with another leap forward.

He was unfortunate not to earn a first Pro Bowl selection in 2020 despite earning an impressive 76.6 grade from Pro Football Focus as a result of his efforts, with Carolina’s eventual 5-11 record doing him no favors whatsoever.

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This is all the motivation Burns should need in pursuit of elevating himself into the elite discussion next season. And only a fool would bet against him.