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What that bear’s doing: Panthers at Buccaneers lineman of the week

We’ve changed the name of the Hog Molly report, at least for now, because quite often people watch linemen and wonder... “What’s that bear doing?”

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to try a little something different with the Hog Molly Report for awhile. I talked to you all last week about making a commitment to recognize positive play from our guys in this young season, especially given the disadvantaged situation our young team with a huge amount of roster turnover is in. With that in mind, I’m changing the format of the report for a bit, and renaming it in honor of our own Robby Anderson, and his now famous “What’s that Bear doing?” quote regarding Sir Purr.

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

The Carolina Panthers defense has yet to record a sack this season, and that is troubling. No doubt about that. Even having faced two quarterbacks that laser focus on getting the ball out quickly and hitting short passes, you’d still think we would have lucked into one by now. But it isn’t for lack of trying, at least on Brian Burns part. While the box score looks kind of pedestrian at 4 tackles, 2 for loss, and 1 QB hit, the life and truth of lineman play is not always reflected in statistics.

For one, effectively, a tackle for loss and a sack are the same thing. Sacks feel more impactful because you’re getting a shot on a quarterback and usually the yardage loss is a bit larger, but both are simply forced negative plays. In the case of both Burns TFL’s, they were plus individual efforts that reflected either excellent instincts or disciplined film study.

Then you’ve got two “would be sacks on most anyone but Tom Brady” pressures that showcase his incredible athleticism. An outside spin and an inside spin that both leave the left tackle grasping at air.

The point is, he made impact plays, or he made efforts that resulted in impact plays. Eventually, he is going to get home on some of these pressures, not every QB in the NFL has 20 years of experience to feel pressure and fire a pass like Tom Brady. There will be sacks, sack fumbles, and maybe even pick sixes with his athleticism and versatility to drop into coverage. Good things are coming for this young man, and he is definitely the defender I’ll be watching closest this season.

Other Bears of Note (not named Sir Purr)

This week was definitely a step back for the offensive line. Even in my effort to talk about positives, you won’t see me put a spin on a five sack day, though at least one of them is not the line’s fault. Teddy Bridgewater was pressured the sixth fewest in the NFL in Week 1, I cannot imagine he will be anywhere near that this week. Then again, the Tampa Bay defensive line is projected by many to finish the season as one of the top units in the NFL, both in pass rushing and run defense. On that note, we DID find some room to run Christian McCaffrey. Not an incredible yards per carry average, but there also was not a huge batch of negative plays either.

Christian McCaffrey week 2 run scatterchart nextgenstats

Defensively, despite the absence of Kawann Short, we improved in defending the run. Discard the game icing Leonard Fournette jaunt (which was a result of poor gap fill by linebackers and safeties) and it was pedestrian. It was a remarkably solid game by Woodrow Hamilton, who didn’t give away his shot, and Zach Kerr who both made the most of the injury to Short.

Also, while we can criticize Derrick Brown for his penalties (and their timing), Matt Rhule was absolutely right when he called them “effort penalties.” Personally, I hated the personal foul penalty. By the book, ok... fine. But by physics? Good luck altering the trajectory of that big frame when it’s going down toward you. The second penalty, a hands to the face call, was a result of him absolutely pummeling the guard matched up against him. Sometimes those just happen, your hands slip up, and you don’t notice because you’re focused on getting to the quarterback.

I’ll be very frank with all of you. Be really careful on Twitter. Don’t trust a bunch of box score bros to “evaluate” a nose tackle for you. Guess what, their “evaluation” is that they remember two memorable moments where Brown got flagged, and suddenly he is trash. I’m here to tell you, he isn’t. If you’re gonna trust a random internet voice, at least trust mine, because I actually played nose tackle. It’s not a glorious position. Your job most of the time is to be double teamed and not accumulate stats. The “justification” for drafting Brown is going to come when the rest of the D-Line proves that they need to command more attention from time to time.

That does it for my rant. Again, don’t let the toxicity poison you. Remember to have some perspective. Remember just how behind the eight ball this team is, and what the expectations for this season really are. The time these young players are getting, and the lumps they are taking, will pay off in a couple of years if we do this thing right. Be patient and have grace, just like we should with all of our interactions during COVID-19.