Meeks In, Old Defense Out?

Brad MillsCorrespondent IMay 9, 2009

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: Defensive coordinator Ron Meeks of the Indianapolis Colts watches play against the Washington Redskins in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 3, 2008 in Canton, Ohio.   (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The departure of Mike Trgovac and the arrival of Ron Meeks raises some interesting questions about the style of the 2009 Carolina Panthers defensive unit.

Trgovac ran Fox's defense since taking over for Jack Del Rio in 2003. The defensive scheme has remained largely unchanged, much to the chagrin of a fanbase who felt it had grown stale. Meeks comes in after six years in Indianapolis running Tony Dungy's Tampa-2, which emphasizes speed up front and physicality at the corner positions.

Fox has traditionally been resistant to change to his scheme, coaching staff, or line-up. However, there is evidence he's open to allowing Meeks to take a more active role than his predecessor. The Panthers' two most recent second round selections are evidence that change might be on the horizon.

First pick Everette Brown would appear at first glance to be undersized for Fox's defense. He compares in size and style less to Tyler Brayton and Julius Peppers and more to Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney, who was mentored by Meeks in Indianapolis. It's difficult to believe that the Panthers sacrificed a 2010 first rounder to draft Brown just to have him compete with Charles Johnson for third string.

Sherrod Martin offers another hint that change is coming. He compares favorably to Jason David who excelled in Meeks system in Indianapolis; physical, strong, and good in run support. He proved himself lethal against the run at Troy. It could be a sign that the Panthers plan to abandon the dreaded ten yard cushions that have caused fans to pull out their hair for the last five years.

Historically under Fox, the Panthers have been content to sacrifice yards for clock after establishing a lead, no matter how slim. They've also preferred to die by a thousand cuts, giving up tiny dink and dunk passes while the safeties play thirty yards back, guarding against a deep bomb that never comes. With the addition of a pure edge rusher and a physical corner, Fox might be willing to change and play a more aggressive style of defense.

The offense isn't going to be a problem. By the end of 2008, the Panthers showed they could run on anyone. All they need to do is tweak the defense to prevent giving up large leads, and hope that the spaceship returns to take Larry Fitzgerald back to his home planet.