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Derrick Brown leads group of four Pro Bowl alternates


CHARLOTTE — While a 2-14 record made it hard for many Panthers to be recognized, four veterans were tabbed as alternates to the Pro Bowl Games Wednesday night.

Derrick Brown was named the NFC's first alternate at defensive tackle, Brian Burns was a second alternate at outside linebacker, and punter Johnny Hekker and long snapper JJ Jansen were named third alternates at their positions.

Alternates can end up invited to the Pro Bowl Games if players ahead of them drop out because of injury or Super Bowl participation. The event will be held in Orlando the first week of February. The three defensive tackles named to the team were Aaron Donald (Rams), Dexter Lawrence (Giants), and Javon Hargrave (49ers).

Brown has been the Panthers' most consistent player and playmaker this season, setting records along the way.

His 96 tackles this year are first among all defensive linemen in the league and second-most in a single season since the stat was tracked beginning in 1994 (trailing only the 98 by Miami's Christian Wilkins in 2022).

He also obliterated the former team record for tackles in a season set by a lineman (67 by Mike Rucker in 2002 and himself last year).

He's had a pair of 10-plus tackle games this year, the only defensive lineman in the league to do so. And he's doing it as practically an every-down player, as he's been on the field for 89 percent of the team's defensive snaps, rare for a man of his size.

Burns has had an off year by his standards, with 7.0 sacks and 15 tackles for loss, after earning Pro Bowl honors the last two seasons. He's still one of just four players in the NFL with at least 7.0 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, 17 quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and one strip sack this season.

He has 45.0 sacks in his first five seasons here, and only Julius Peppers (52.5) has had more in their first five years here.

Hekker and Jansen continue to provide stable leadership on special teams, which has been a challenge in a year marked by so many injuries that impact their units. Hekker's ninth in the league and fifth in the NFC with a 43.2 net average. He's also 6-2 calling coin tosses this year, which is helpful, and headbutted a man in Miami.

Jansen continues to break his own record for games played in Panthers history, with 242 and counting.

JJ Jansen, Johnny Hekker, the day everything changed

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