CHARLOTTE – In Perry Fewell's first game as head coach against Atlanta, rookie edge rusher Brian Burns was on the field for 33 defensive snaps – his most since Week 8.
On Sunday against Seattle, the first-round pick had just seven defensive snaps – his lowest total of the season.
"It's just the rotation that the D-line coaches use," Fewell said Monday. "We tried to get him in on some situational football. It's neither here nor there. Sometimes he gets more, sometimes he gets less."
Fewell went on to explain why Burns got less in this particular matchup versus the Seahawks, in which the game plan primarily called for a four-man front. Burns has been most comfortable as standup rusher in the 3-4.
"Since we moved to more of a 4-3 look this week, what we tried to do was utilize our personnel as best as we possibly could," Fewell said. "We tried to put some guys in at the defensive end position that were stout at the point of attack in certain situations. We put certain guys on the edge that could be stout as 9-techniques at the point of attack as well as rushing the passer.
"We didn't get as many snaps in the base defense as we thought we would. Sometimes, that goes into the count of how much you play and how much you don't play."
Burns showed how disruptive he can be as a pass-rusher earlier in the season, recording 4.5 sacks over the first six weeks.
But a midseason hand injury both sidetracked him and hampered him. He's put the injury behind him, but Fewell indicated the 21-year-old still has a lot of room to grow.
"He's got unlimited potential. That's what it is right now, is potential," Fewell said. "It's just like most rookies that play, they hit a point in the season where, are they hitting a rookie wall or not? I don't think he is. The injury slowed him down a little bit. He wasn't able to use his hand and strike and shed and get off blocks in the run game as well as we would like for him to. Now he's got the hand back, so he's got to learn to strike, shed and get off blocks and do that again. That's just the natural progression in my mind."