Which NFL pass-rushing greats does Brian Burns admire most?

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

Which former NFL pass-rushers does Brian Burns admire the most as the Carolina Panthers defensive end looks to follow in their footsteps?

There is a significant amount of anticipation in the air regarding just how much Brian Burns can accomplish in 2021. The defensive end made some outstanding strides in Year 2 of his professional career and he is now undisputedly the Carolina Panthers‘ best player on defense despite his relative lack of experience.

Considering how little there was helping Burns last season, the impression he left was notable. The 2019 first-round pick is one of the league’s most dynamic pass-rushers, displaying the sort of tenacity and quickness that is extremely rare across the NFL.

Burns is a hard guy to root against. His relaxed approach to life is matched by a fierce competitive will once he steps onto the gridiron, something that should be evident during a critical third season for the player and the Panthers.

Speaking on the Behind the Mask podcast with Takeo Spikes and Tutan Reyes, Burns outlined the four players at the same position who’ve inspired him to be the devastating edge presence he is today.

Brian Burns names former Carolina Panthers great among those he admires.

Former Panthers legend Julius Peppers was the first name that came to Burns’ mind, with Denver Broncos All-Pro Von Miller, Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears, and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jason Taylor three others that the player stated his admiration for.

"“J-Pepp one of them for sure. I watch a lot of guys like Von Miller, Jason Taylor, and Khalil Mack. Even some of the guys coming up now like Yannick (Ngakoue). There’s a lot of guys I watch but in terms of those from the past, it would be those four for sure. Naturally, in high school and college I didn’t know a lot of moves and was always doing a dip move naturally, which they call the ghost move now, so I kind of refined that after watching Von Miller do it.”"

Burns added that his famous spin move is something that’s unsurprisingly his favorite, which he perfected after watching the devastating tandem of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis spin offensive tackles out of their boots during prolific careers with the Indianapolis Colts.

These players are lofty ones to aim for. But there’s nothing to suggest that Burns isn’t capable of replicating their production in the coming years.

His first two years in the league have been littered with memorable moments. Providing Burns makes the necessary improvements leading up to his prime, then he could become the league’s best in no time at all.

He is that good.

Burns has not only made his presence felt on the field. But the Florida State product was also forced into a surprising leadership role in 2020 after the Panthers made wholesale changes to their roster following the appointment of Matt Rhule.

The head coach praised Burns for his evolution into a leader on defense over the second half of the campaign. Something the player is clearly taking seriously even if he is going about things a little differently on the leadership front.

"“I’m not big on speeches before the game. If I feel like I need to say something then I will, but I lead by example, and when I talk everyone listens. I kind of had to step up into the vocal role and let them feed off my energy, so now I’m embracing it.”"

This will be Burns’ third season in a professional environment. A time when elite defensive ends normally hit their stride and become a dominant force.

Carolina saw enough last time around to suggest Burns is capable of such a leap. There are also plenty of upgraded weapons situated on the defensive front and other areas to provide the assistance he didn’t have consistently in 2020.

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Brian Burns has greatness in his sights. And it would be a brave man to bet against him achieving this at the earliest possible opportunity.