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Know Your Enemy: Carolina Panthers EDGE, Brian Burns

What does this former Seminole bring to the field for Tampa Bay’s Week 2 opponent?

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have some things in common with the Carolina Panthers outside of being in the NFC South Division.

For starters, both franchises were unhappy with how their 2018 season ultimately finished. Both are introducing new defensive schemes to their teams. And both went into the 2019 off-season trying to bolster their respective pass rush abilities.

This is where things change. While the Bucs went to free-agency and looked later in the 2019 NFL Draft to get some pass rush help, the Carolina Panthers used their first-round draft pick (16th overall) on Florida State EDGE, Brian Burns.

Now, in the NFL, he’s currently listed on Carolina’s roster as a LB/DE so we’ll just call him an edge defender as well. But he’s more than that, so let’s get more closely acquainted with this Panthers defender.


North Carolina v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Burns doesn’t have an NFL history to speak of too deeply. In his lone professional game, the rookie came up with two tackles, two quarterback hits and one tackle for a loss. Although, the tackle for a loss was pretty impressive.

In his final year with the Seminoles, Burns led Florida State with 15.5 tackles for loss and ten sacks, leading to a First-Team All-ACC selection.

During the draft process, Burns was praised for his athleticism and speed while getting knocks for play strength and size.

Responding to the criticism, the early draft entrant packed on twenty good pounds to his frame and appeared to lose none of the athleticism and speed when he took to the field in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine.

He was a constant riser during the 2019 NFL Draft process, and some Buccaneers fans will remember hoping against all odds their team would somehow land the pass rushing specialist.

Alas, he landed with a division rival, and as he develops his NFL legacy the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make a twice per year guest appearance in the Brian Burns story.


1 Game: 2 Tackles, 1 Tackle for Loss, 2 Quarterback Hits, 0 Sacks
NFL: Preseason-Pittsburgh Steelers at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve already talked about the lack of history here, and with only one week in the books, there isn’t much of a 2019 to talk about either. Last week, we were able to project some thoughts about what to expect from San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo. We aren’t as fortunate with Burns, but with the potential for running back Ronald Jones to get even more involved this week in the Tampa Bay offense, we wanted to take a close look at how this rookie might impact the Buccaneers offense in Week 2.

So, let’s get straight to strengths and weaknesses.



If you said duh, well, I don’t know what to tell you. Speed is a big strength for Burns, and is the first part of what makes him so lethal on a football field.

Not just speed while he’s running. His get-off is solid and his ability to disrupt what an offense is doing at the earliest point of the play design is going to be something the Panthers look to capitalize on as his career continues to develop.

For offensive linemen like Demar Dotson who struggled at times last week against the San Francisco 49ers’ defensive front, this week will prove no easier, but now the Panthers have film they can use to see what worked against the Bucs and what didn’t.

His tackle for a loss on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods showed just how explosive he is off the line and how quickly he gets into the backfield when he’s is free or gets free.

I could repost the tweet, or you could just scroll back up.

Ok, I just put it in again. It’s worth it.


Florida State has been a factory of sorts for versatility as of late. Other former Seminoles like Dalvin Cook have shown the ability to impact his offense with a career 4.7 yards per carry average and 53 career receptions for 404 yards in 16 games, while safety Derwin James showed strength in defending the run and the pass on his way to a First-Team All-Pro nod in just his rookie season.

While perhaps not quite as immediately impactful as Cook and James, Burns brings his own brand of versatility using his speed and suddenness to defeat offensive lines, and then leaning on his athleticism and length to help in pass defense.

Carolina used Burns almost exclusively as a pass rusher in their Week 1 contest, but with more game conditioning and experience, I expect they’ll start to do more with him as the year progresses.

Looking at the Tampa Bay offense from this past Sunday, the Panthers could very well be looking to use Burns more during this evening match-up to help contest some of the reliance on the screen pass the Bucs demonstrated against San Francisco.

With his length and ability, the Buccaneers could find themselves in hot water if they try to execute a screen to his side of the field and the rookie sniffs it out in time.



Many young defensive linemen and pass rush linebackers have issues getting off blocks early in their careers. Simply put, these offensive linemen are better equipped to stop the things that made Burns so successful with the Seminoles.

A lot of the questions entering the NFL Draft when Joey Bosa came out of Ohio State existed in his ability to get off and past blockers with a multitude of moves at the pro level. He demonstrated the ability to use many different techniques at his pro day and at the combine, and has done so in the NFL as well.

Burns is going to have to develop his own repertoire of moves to counter what offensive linemen are doing against him. Quite often in his first week on the job, Burns would get locked up by his blocker during his speed rush, and simply have no answer for what to do next.

In each of the three clips here, Burns is the left side defensive end.

This will come with time, and I’m pretty surprised I didn’t see him trying to employ his spin move more in Week 1.

As the rookie gets more comfortable with what he needs to do in Carolina, some of these things will fix themselves, so in some ways, the Buccaneers are fortunate to be facing he and his teammates this early in the season.


Which brings us to our next weakness. Experience.

Obviously no rookie has any real experience coming into their second regular season week in the NFL, but for some this matters more than it does for others.

Burns is one of those rookies this matters for. He’s not quite comfortable in his own scheme, and against Los Angeles last week there are times you can see he just didn't feel comfortable or confident in what his eyes were seeing by the way his body was acting.

On the play before his big tackle for a loss, the Rams ran basically the same exact play. On the play, Burns jumped into position to stop the sweep with the receiver, but the play went to Gurley for a solid gain. In a first test of mental discipline, when the Rams went with the same run action, a lot of rookies would have collapsed down the line opening a big area for the wide receiver to run through. Not Burns.

In this instance, his play discipline, his lack of experience didn’t hurt him. And the result was a big play.

On a couple of other instances however, the Rams countered his speed rush desires by allowing him to get up field before the right tackle sealed him off from the run play coming straight through the hole he helped open up. Because the space was so big, even a linebacker filling the gap behind him is outmatched against Gurley who needs very little space to embarrass most NFL linebackers.

In the future, I expect Burns will learn how to read this situation better and employ that spin move to at least close the gap a bit for his teammate, or possibly even put himself into position to make a big stop before the running back is able to exploit the play design.

If I’m Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, I’m looking to use this same tendency by the rookie to my advantage with each of my running backs who all have the ability to use opportunities like this to either speed into open space, make a move to get by defenders in a bigger-than-it-should-be gap, or simply get some momentum to punish the defender for taking on the ball carrier.

Burns has all the upside in the world, clearly justifying his selection with the 16th overall pick in this past NFL Draft. He’s yet to reach it, which isn’t unexpected this early into his pro career, but he’s still shown some positives the Carolina Panthers will certainly look to build on.

When Burns wins, he wins easily and has the bend to get to the quarterback or the reach to at least physically give the passer a sign he’s in the area.

If the coaching staff and players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can take advantage and even manipulate some of Burns’ weaknesses into working for their own agenda, then it could mean big plays and opportunities on the right side of the offense.

Of course, many Buccaneers fans know plenty about Brian Burns from his playing career with the Florida State Seminoles. Share your own thoughts, comments, and what you expect to see from this member of the opposition as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get set to do battle against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2 of the 2019 NFL Season.