We’re 31 days away from the Carolina Panthers 2021 season opener, so today’s countdown piece is devoted to No. 31 on the roster — safety Juston Burris.
Last season was the first in Burris’ six years in the NFL in which he started more than nine games in a season, making a career-best 12 starts at safety. He also added a career-best 51 tackles, and made one interception.
But Burris needs to fill some big shoes this season. Tre Boston is gone, the man who started all 16 games at the free safety spot last season, and who was on the field for almost 100 percent of all defensive snaps.
Burris, at the strong safety spot, turns into one of the veterans in the backfield. Jeremy Chinn, a second-round pick in 2020, will take Boston’s old spot. Meanwhile, rookie first-rounder Jaycee Horn and 2018 second-rounder Donte Jackson should take the corner spots until 30-year-old A.J. Bouye returns from suspension.
It’s not like Burris isn’t ready for it, having played about three quarters of all defensive snaps last season. But last season he suffered a rib injury that put him on injured reserve, forcing him to miss four games.
Behind Burris there isn’t much in the way of starting talent on the depth chart, so the Panthers will be leaning on him to play all season.
This is another position that should prove especially interesting for Panthers fans to watch. And in his seventh season, this year would be a fair indicator of Burris’ potential as an impact starter.
Burris came to Carolina by way of Cleveland, where he had spent the previous two years. His first three years of his career came with the New York Jets after they took him in the fourth round of the 2016 draft out of N.C. State.
At N.C. State, he played with Broncos edge rusher Bradley Chubb, Jaguars safety Josh Jones and Giants defensive tackle B.J. Hill.