Watch: Division Rivals, and First-Round Draft Picks, Ready to Battle on Sunday

Tom Pollin

There isn’t just going to be a battle of division rivals taking place in Charlotte, NC on Sunday. If you keep your eye on the trenches, you’re going to see a battle of two, 2019 first round draft picks. Kaleb McGary will be lining up at right tackle for the Atlanta Falcons and will see plenty of edge rusher Brian Burns for the Carolina Panthers.

Before the 2019 NFL Draft, there were plenty of fans who would have been thrilled to see Burns lining up in Falcons red and black. Instead, the Falcons selected guard Chris Lindstrom at No. 14 and Burns went two picks later to Carolina. The Falcons finished their first day of work in Nashville by trading back into the first round to take McGary with the thirty-first pick.

Both first-rounders have had to deal with minor surgeries this season. McGary nearly missed all of training camp after having a procedure to correct heart rhythm issues. He returned in time to start the Falcons final exhibition game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and has started every game of the regular season at right tackle.

Burns has had to recover from an injury to his right wrist. He had a minor procedure to fix the issue and played one week with a club on his hand which limited him in the Panthers’ Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers.

As is the case for most rookies, both have struggled to establish themselves on the NFL level. McGary’s lowest point this season was in Week 7 against the Los Angles Rams. He spent that game being schooled by Dante Fowler, who sacked Matt Ryan three times and pressured him seven more.

Heading into Week 11, Burns has only played 52 percent of Carolina’s defensive snaps. He lost development time due to the wrist injury. Still, he’s managed to record four-and-a-half sacks and is credited with 19 pressures (quarterback hurries and hits). Burns also has 16 tackles through 10 weeks of the season. The wrist shouldn’t be affecting him on Sunday when he takes the field against the Falcons.

Last week, McGary put the lessons Fowler taught him to use against Cameron Jordan of the Saints. Jordan came into the game with eight sacks and 30 quarterback pressures. McGary held him to one pressure and only two combined tackles for the game.

It will be fun to see Burns get more snaps in Sunday’s game so fans can watch both first-round draft picks go head-to-head. When they do, we’ll see which one teaches the other some of the lessons they’ve learned so far in their rookie seasons.