After spending years in a pressure orientated, mainly man-coverage centric, forty-three scheme the Panthers’ bringing in a Tampa Two orientated defensive coordinator may confuse some in the fan base.
Consider for a moment the recent comments from Eugene Robinson to Darin Gantt where he detailed that Meeks will tailor to a defenses strengths, rather than force round pegs into square holes.
Right now, the young secondary of the Panthers has had some issues, before Tim Lewis the zone schemes were sloppy and the back of the defense was generally, a little soft. Under Tim Lewis, things became more disciplined, and improved, but only marginally. Lewis failed to find a way to use the physicality of Lucas, Marshall and Harris while allowing the smooth athleticism of CJ Wilson, Charles Godfrey and Chris Gamble to accentuate the defense.
Ron Meeks appears to be poised to change all of that. The Indianapolis secondary, line backing corps and often, defensive line only had two or three star players. For much of the time, outside of Dwight Freeney and Barry Sanders they weren’t exactly the who’s who of defensive play makers, but for some reason Meeks managed to have his defensive finish in the top seven in points allowed five times during time in Indianapolis, within which he won a Super Bowl (2006) and lead the NFL in scoring defense (2007).
With the Panthers having high picks and big money up and down the defense and speculation running rife as to why the team hasn’t had the defense it should’ve for years, the tide may be beginning to change.
Thomas Davis and Jon Beason form what just might be the best young tandem at MLB and WLB in the NFL today and Meeks will undoubtedly be dreaming up packages to get these two headlines as devastating play makers.
The offseason is still weeks away from being in full-swing and realistically it’s impossible to ascertain what picks in the draft the Panthers’ will eventually have and really, which players will be signed or released before training camp.
One thing is for sure, the Panthers signed the best defensive coordinator available. One with experience playing under a defensive minded head coach, one who by all accounts is considered, flexible and skilled and most importantly an experienced, successful and brilliant mind.
That being said you can likely expect to see more, yet more effective zonal schemes, which will suit the Panthers strengths in the back seven. We can also expect to see a lot more blitzing, pass rushing and more aggression from the Panthers players.
What the team still needs however is a few more pieces on the defensive line and with a number of ends, tackles and hybrids of the two entering the market, one would think the Panthers can find Meeks some pieces to fit his plans.
Expect the secondary to become more of a centre piece, expect a lot of free running style defense and expect fewer mistakes.
Trgovac and Fox were different in their defensive styles and this often lead to a good compromise of zone and man to man schemes that revolved around some kind of four man rush, safety blitz or the occasional free fire blitzing. It was largely a success, but there were often breakdowns in assignments in both the zone, gap discipline and in man to man coverage.
Meeks and Fox have both come from a background of using zonal schemes, aggressive front lines and strong linebacker play. While the two will differ slightly in their secondary coaching Fox’s extensive experience in the area will at the end of the day mean he and Meeks ought to be on the same wavelength in their understanding of the team’s capabilities. This is the most important aspect of the hire.
When Fox got involved with the defensive coaching over the last few years his involvement wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, the clouding of the waters because he and Trgovac couldn’t devise a concise, accurate game plan, was. With Meeks that breakdown in communication shouldn’t rear its ugly head and the team should be allowed to finally do what they do best. Play some damn football.