Stud defensive end Brian Burns holds the key to any chance the Carolina Panthers have of gaining a shock upset at the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11.
Not many outside of the brightest optimist is giving the Carolina Panthers much hope of pulling off a major upset in Week 11. Traveling to the Baltimore Ravens represents arguably the toughest test of Steve Wilks’ time as interim head coach so far, with their physical style of football and ruthless approach to the trenches set to tell us plenty about how far this team has come since Matt Rhule was fired.
Perhaps the biggest key to this game outside of Baker Mayfield’s production under center is limiting Lamar Jackson’s influence. The league’s best dual-threat quarterback is a nightmare to game plan for and unless the Panthers’ defense is disciplined, it could be another long afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium.
One man that will be tasked with more than most is Brian Burns. The defensive end is on pace for another career year and will be paid handsomely by the Panthers next spring, but these are the games where he needs to step up and become a driving force in the face of such high-caliber opposition.
Carolina clearly feels as if Burns is a foundational piece for future success. They reportedly turned down an offer consisting of two first-round picks and a second-rounder from the Los Angeles Rams before the trade deadline, so Wilks and his staff will be banking on the former Florida State standout showing out consistently to overcome the odds this weekend.
Burns is all-too-aware of how to prevent Jackson from damaging Carolina’s chances. But as many have found out to their cost, saying it and doing it are two different things where the one-time NFL MVP is concerned.
"“Balanced rush lanes, pretty much just put him in a phone booth, and don’t let him out. And you’ve got to have 10 of your guys coming behind you. When you’re rushing, you don’t want the pocket to expand because that gives him the creases he can hit. But if you put him in a phone booth and condense it and have a lot of bodies around him, it’s hard to get out of there. The only way you can get out of there is going back.”"
Jackson is a conundrum that most cannot solve, especially in the regular season. Wilks will have his team prepared, but the onus will be on Burns and others to provide the spark needed to prevent the explosive signal-caller from making things happen.
This all starts with winning individual battles. Burns will likely switch sides often depending on how he fares against premier left tackle Ronnie Stanley, but maintaining gap integrity in the event Jackson gets out on the move is also of critical importance.
Burns has been criticized in the past for overblowing his spot and failing to finish with conviction. If the same occurs in Week 11, then Jackson is likely to have a field day against a defense that is missing Matt Ioannidis and Donte Jackson through injury.
If Burns wants to be considered among the elite edge rushers around the league, then these games are when he needs to show exactly why. This bears more significance to the Panthers given the lack of pass-rushing presence opposite the 2019 first-round pick during the campaign so far.
This is an opportunity for a statement game of sorts for Burns. Something that can add further dollars to his contract demands when it’s all said and done.
However, the size of the task awaiting him and the Panthers cannot be understated.