Brian Burns has blossomed into one of the best edge rushers in the NFL right before our very eyes.
We were able to see glimpses of how special he is on the field during his rookie campaign last year when he recorded 7.5 sacks, 25 combined tackles, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery that led to a 56-yard touchdown. That was just the beginning.
This year, Burns has been sensational. This past week, he was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after his masterful performance during Carolina's shutout victory against the Detroit Lions. This game was the exclamation point on an excellent season from the prolific pass rusher so far. Matt Rhule allowed Burns to be fully unleashed as a three down player, and his decision has proven to be highly effective for this team.
Since then, he has been giving nightmares to offenses around the league. Burns is easily the best player on the Panthers' defense, and it could even be argued that he is the best player on this team in general. Furthermore, he should be a bona fide pro bowler this season. While there won't be an actual 2021 Pro Bowl due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be a week-long virtual event that will acknowledge each of the players who were selected.
Numbers never lie, so take a look at the stats:
41 combined tackles (24 solos), five tackles for loss, six sacks, three pass deflections, and three forced fumbles in eleven games. If you aren't impressed enough, he has an 83.9 grade on Pro Football Focus.
Burns is categorized as a defensive end in this year's Pro Bowl voting, which means that he won't have to face competition from the likes of edge rushers who are listed as outside linebackers. This includes T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Za'Darius Smith, who all have impressively produced as well. The only person in Burns' position group who is clearly having a better season so far is Myles Garrett, who is currently injured. Garrett produced a total of 31 combined tackles (23 solos), seven tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles in nine games. However, the Browns arguably have a better supporting cast around Garrett than the Panthers have around Burns.
Another thing to take note of is the fact that this man is only 22 and he is already playing at an elite level.
He is just now entering his prime, and it seems like he will be wreaking havoc on the line of scrimmage for the foreseeable future. Panthers fans should be excited about his performance this season, because this young man is going to be a problem for many years to come.
Feel free to vote for the defensive end of your choosing here. You already know who has my vote.
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