CHICAGO – Everyone wanted a piece of Brian Burns Thursday night in Chicago. It was interview after interview for the first-round pick following his two-sack debut in the preseason opener.
Burns is a bit of a showman. He showed off his trademark Spider-Man sack celebrations and had a shirt depicting the pose at the ready following the game. Expectations for the 16th overall pick are high, and he made quite an opening statement.
Marquis Haynes, a fourth-round pick from a year ago, thought he might be able to slip out of the locker room undetected after his two-sack performance against the Bears. He’s understated. He didn’t unveil a trademark celebration or a special shirt – just a plain black button down.
People weren’t really talking about Haynes prior to Thursday night. He’s kind of been forgotten after hardly playing as a rookie in 2018 (he suited up for just four games).
But two sacks are always going to garner attention, and Carolina will gladly take that kind of production from both young edge rushers. The Panthers hope what we saw against the Bears is a preview of what’s to come in 2019.
“They both came through today,” head coach Ron Rivera said of Burns and Haynes. “It was exciting to watch.”
Let’s start with Burns, who started the game with Rivera opting to sit his first-teamers.
On his first sack, the Bears tried to chip Burns with a running back, which prompted him to spin inside. Defensive lineman Bryan Cox Jr. had gotten a strong inside push, forcing quarterback Chase Daniel to climb the pocket. Burns was waiting for him.
“Once I saw the chip I just reacted with the spin move and it just fell right into my lap,” Burns said.
Then he pulled out his go-to Spider-Man celebration – the one he started doing in college – which got rave reviews from teammates.
“I give it a 10, man,” Cox Jr. said of Burns’ sack dance. “It’s unique, it’s different. The young kid has got a lot of juice.”
Bears tight end Ian Bunting learned that the hard way. After Daniel rolled out, Bunting was one-on-one with Burns. It did not end well for the tight end.
“I just jabbed outside and came inside,” Burns said. “He pretty much gave it to me.”
Then came another Spidey-inspired pose. Burns says he’s got plenty, and veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy – a comic book fanatic himself – is apparently helping him come up with more.
“The only way I’m going to be able to do ‘em is if I get a sack,” Burns said with a smile. “I’ve got to work for it.”
It sure seems like these are the first of many.
“He did what he’s supposed to do. He did his thing,” defensive end Mario Addison said of his understudy Burns. “He’s athletic, he’s got tremendous speed and he knows how to counter. If we can polish him up a little bit more, he’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with.”
Haynes’ night didn’t start off so hot. It was his failure to set the edge that led to an easy 7-yard touchdown run for David Montgomery in the second quarter.
“I take full responsibility on that,” Haynes said. “I was supposed to hammer and it led to a touchdown. That was my mistake, and I made up for it with two sacks.”
That’s the right way to respond.
Haynes used his speed to rip his way to the quarterback for his first sack in the third quarter. But he was particularly proud of the inside move he used to notch sack No. 2 later on.
“He was throwing the fastball and then he mixed in that curveball,” Addison said.
“It’s rare that I do that. It was a quick inside move,” Haynes said. “I saw how the tackle’s stance was. He overset me hard and I took the inside move.”
Haynes one and only NFL sack prior to Thursday night came in last year’s preseason. It had been a while since he’d gotten home.
“It felt good. It’s a good start,” Haynes said. “Two sacks is better than what I did last year.”
His teammates see it as further proof of the step Haynes has taken in his second year. That, and the fact that he’s much more comfortable in this scheme that’s utilizing more 3-4 looks.
“The change in our system benefited him the most out of anybody,” Cox Jr. said. “He’s more at home. He’s bound for a good year.”
If that’s indeed the case, and if Burns builds off his sparkling debut…
“Woooo,” Addison said. “We’ve got depth, man.”