Over the final seven games, the Panthers porous defense gave up nearly 30 points and 390 yards per contest. These numbers were certainly unacceptable to a defensive-minded coach like John Fox. Changes had to be made.
Exit Mike Trgovac. Enter Ron Meeks.
Meeks was the Defensive Coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts for the last seven years. During his tenure there, the Colts finished in the top seven in points allowed five different times.
Being a Tony Dungy disciple, he has run a 3-4 defense (the type that Julius Peppers favors) and has used the famous Tampa Two defense.
In an interview with Gaston Gazette beat writer Steve Reed, Meeks said, “Obviously we've had some success with this system in Indianapolis. Working under Tony Dungy, obviously I picked up there and I thought that was a big influence in what I'm doing.”
“But also, we want to make sure we're doing the things that can magnify and produce some good results based on the skill-set that we have. I think these guys have done some great job here with the personnel and some of the things they have done.”
The Panthers defense will still be strongly influenced by the defensive-minded Fox, who favors the 4-3 defense. Look for the Cats to play the 4-3 but to lean strongly on the Tampa Two.
A key to Meek’s direction this year is the status of all-pro DE Julius Peppers, who has said that he wants out of Charlotte. If he returns, Meeks can be more versatile in the schemes he employs and take advantage of the prodigious talents of the powerful Peppers.
If he is dealt, the Cats will be forced to rely on rookie Everette Brown from Florida State to step up right away.
“We went into the draft looking at some guys that can give us obvious pressure,” Meeks said. “We think Everette Brown can be one of those guys.”
The Panthers also spent a third-round pick on defensive tackle Corvey Irvin of Georgia to help solidify their front four.
The strength of the Panthers’ defense will be their linebacking corps, led by Pro Bowler Jon Beason and athletic Thomas Davis, who has also played strong safety.
The Cats are counting on cornerback Chris Gamble to be a shutdown defender and justify the huge contract that they gave him during 2008.
If the Panthers hope to make it to Dolphin Stadium for Super Bowl XLIV, they will have to get defensive.
They’re hoping that in 2009, that Meeks will inherit the earth.