by Darin Gantt & Augusta Stone
CHARLOTTE - Panthers defensive end Brian Burns is very fast. There are many quarterbacks he is faster than.
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson is not among that group.
"I'm fast, but s---, have you seen him?" Burns said with a laugh. "He's fast."
And Burns knows how hard it is to try to stop him because he's tried before. The two played against each other twice in college, with Louisville winning both those matchups. And the first one still leaves a mark.
In 2016, Jackson led the Cardinals to a 63-20 win over Burns' Florida State team, with Jackson running for 146 yards and four touchdowns and throwing for 216 yards and another score.
Burns helped make it a little more respectable the following year, sharing a sack with a teammate that game, but Jackson still ran for 178 yards and a score and threw for 156 yards and a score in a 31-28 Louisville win.
So even though he saw how good Jackson was in college, there are still times Jackson surprises him with the way his game has stayed at that level (noting his improvements as a passer, and that MVP season in 2019).
"I didn't. Not the way it did," Burns admitted when asked if he thought Jackson's game would translate the way it has. "Not as dominant as it is. In college, he was dominant, and I didn't think he'd be just as dominant as he was in college as in the NFL, but he is."
That makes defending him a collective effort.
Panthers interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb referred to the Ravens quarterback as "Houdini in a helmet," and Burns said keeping Jackson from escaping was the top priority this week.
"Balanced rush lanes, pretty much just put him in a phone booth, and don't let him out," Burns said. "And you've got to have 10 of your guys coming behind you. . . .
"When you're rushing, you don't want the pocket to expand because that gives him the creases he can hit. But if you put him in a phone booth and condense it and have a lot of bodies around him, it's hard to get out of there. The only way you can get out of there is going back."
Burns is hoping one of those 10 guys coming behind him might be safety Jeremy Chinn, who practiced again Thursday and could return. They haven't added Chinn to the active roster yet, but if they do, that helps.
"If there's anybody that's going to catch him, I put my money on Chinn," Burns said. "So it would be good to have him back there in case anything goes wrong."
- It's starting to feel more like mid-November around Charlotte. And perhaps nobody is quite as excited about the temperature dip as offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
That's a good thing because it's about to be brisk in Baltimore this weekend.
Sunday's forecast calls for a high of 37 degrees with sunny skies at M&T Bank Stadium. McAdoo, who previously coached in Green Bay and New York, has no complaints, and was still wearing shorts to practice Thursday.
"I just like the crispness in the air," McAdoo said. "Anytime you get a chance to go out and play in cool weather, I love it. I enjoy it. I get excited about it."
McAdoo said cool weather is conducive to the kind of smash-mouth football the Panthers have prioritized since interim coach Steve Wilks took the reins.
Lower temperatures give a chance to "pound the ball" whether it's raining, windy, or below freezing, McAdoo said.
"When the weather turns, it's a big boys' game," McAdoo said. "We always believe everything starts up front here, on both sides of the ball. That comes from coach Wilks.
"Certainly up front for us on offense, in the last handful of weeks, we've been really improving there, playing physical, playing heavy-handed, the way we want to play."
- Defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis isn't expected to play this week because of a calf injury, but he said he wasn't sure of his exact timeline to return to play. He said it definitely wouldn't be this week, but with one more game before their bye, the timeline is complicated.
The Panthers were also without defensive tackles Daviyon Nixon and Marquan McCall in practice Thursday (illness), so Bravvion Roy will need to be ready to play a lot of snaps next to Derrick Brown. They also have Phil Hoskins on the practice squad, and he could be elevated if they need depth.