Brian Burns vs. Ikem Ekwonu
Although there remains hope the Carolina Panthers' defense can make immediate improvements within Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base scheme, not having a consistent pass-rushing threat opposite Brian Burns has the scope to jeopardize the entire operation. Someone like Marquis Haynes Sr. or Yetur Gross-Matos could step up, but a situation might emerge where those in power pay for the lack of investment in the position this spring.
This piles even more pressure on Burns. The edge rusher is set to get a whopping new contract before the new campaign, so the Panthers are expecting another production surge from one of the brightest young pass rushers in the business.
Keeping a close eye on Ikem Ekwonu whenever he's lined up against Burns will be must-see viewing. The second-year left tackle recovered well from his debut baptism against Myles Garrett to emerge as the franchise blindside presence sorely needed - skills that can be refined further by clashing with Burns early and often throughout camp.
Ekwonu and Burns are foundational pieces that can set the tone for others to follow during their matchups at Wofford College. Who gets the upper hand is irrelevant given this is sure to improve each player tremendously ahead of the upcoming season.
Hopefully, both can take heart from their personal battles. Because if the Panthers are to stand any chance of making a better go of things under Frank Reich, they'll need Burns and Ekwonu to hit the ground running.