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What that bear’s doing: Panthers vs Lions lineman of the week

The Panthers recovered in a big way from last week’s humiliation and found a way to shut out the Detroit Lions on the back of an overwhelming pass rush.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

For those that haven’t tuned in lately, welcome to “What that bear’s doing” the 2020 replacement for the column formerly known as “The Hog Molly report.” We’ve changed the format a bit, in an effort to focus on the positives for this young team as they grow and gain experience together.

Hogs and Bears are both perfect analogs for linemen, and while the term “Hog Molly” is not unique to Dave Gettleman, it has become associated with him. I’m not changing it because of this, but merely, a better opportunity has presented itself with the Anderson quote. In “What that Bear’s doing” we are going to focus on one individual’s play in a given week, then talk about the lines more generally. This week, our bear of the week is:

Brian Burns

There was no shortage of defensive line superlatives to hand out this week. I could make cases for basically any member of the defensive line rotation, as you might expect in a shutout victory. Efe Obada nearly took this honor, and Zach Kerr even made a strong case, but it was just a mammoth and dominant effort from Brian Burns on Sunday.

Top notch athleticism and agility, a very strong toolbox of moves and technique, and week over week execution have made Brian Burns, in my eyes, the Carolina Panthers most valuable player. This week he was helped by the fact that Phil Snow finally saw the light and stopped dropping eight into coverage on third down, opting instead to send at least one extra man. Giving Brian Burns a one on one is like throwing filet mignon to a tiger. He routinely embarrassed the Lions protection Sunday, finishing with two sacks, five tackles, four QB hits, and one pass defensed.

Other bears of note (not named Sir Purr)

As hinted at above, Efe Obada and Zach Kerr got in on the action in a big way, and I have to say... Obada has been one of the most improved players on the roster this year. From actually losing his job after “training camp” to a 40-percent share of the rotation and new role as a hybrid 3-tech, Obada has seen an increase in effectiveness under this new staff.

In general, there’s nothing to be angry at on the defensive line this past week. Exceptional job top to bottom, they were clearly better than their Detroit opposition.

Offensively, the same issues persist week to week, though not as obvious against the Lions due to them simply not having the line talent that our recent previous opponents have. Left tackle is still a rotating issue, Russel Okung continues to be off the field. Dennis Daley left the game and has been placed in the concussion protocol, we’ll see how he progresses ahead of our next tilt with the Minnesota Vikings. This leaves the Panthers very thin along the line, and we really need to hope that Okung can finally return this week.

All that said, P.J. Walker was able to find enough comfort out there to make things happen, and I suspect he may get to start again this week against the Vikings. There is no reason to rush back Teddy Bridgewater when you have a bye week following, and I think an extended look at Walker after his first performance would be a good thing. The protection has been adequate, and run blocking occasionally brilliant. I’m anxious to see the confidence high this team can ride after a shutout win like this one.