There is an old adage in sports: offense wins games, defense wins championships.
The Carolina Panthers have made significant changes to their defensive coaching staff this season, looking to tweak a little here, a little there...
With Julius Peppers (pictured) in the midst of a contract dispute, all eyes will be on him and the Panther defense. Let's meet John Fox's 2009 Panthers defensive staff...
Ron Meeks has had his hands in one of the best defenses in the NFL over the last couple of seasons. He now brings his winning ways to Charlotte, and brings along a Super Bowl ring as well.
Over the last few seasons, he turned around an Indianapolis defense decimated by injuries. Safety Bob Sanders garnered NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
From 2002-08, Indianapolis ranked among the top seven in the NFL in points allowed five times, including tied for seventh last year.
Meeks is an aggressive coach, who likes putting pressure on the quarterback. With rookie Everette Brown and veteran Julius Peppers on the corners, he should be able to accomplish that goal fairly easily.
Brian Baker was hired as defensive line coach Feb. 13, 2009, having spent the last three years of his 14-year coaching career with the St. Louis Rams.
Baker has coached several Pro Bowl linemen over his career (La'Roi Glover, Robert Porcher, Luther Elliss, Kevin Williams, Leonard Little, Lance Johnstone), and can now add Peppers to his curriculum vitae.
Baker preaches penetration and QB pressure, evidenced by his linemen accounting for 20 to St. Louis' 30 sacks last season. His linemen also ranked 11th in the NFL for sacks per pass play. His style fits perfectly with Meeks' aggressiveness, and should be fun to watch.
Richard Smith comes to Carolina this season after being defensive coordinator for Houston (2006-2008) and Miami (2005).
After having worked with players like Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, and Zach Thomas, Smith now has his hands full with Jon Beason, Na'il Diggs, Thomas Davis, and Dan Conner.
With the defensive line creating penetration, Smith's LBs should have plenty of space to scrape around and cause havoc.
Mike Gillhamer has had to do a whole lot with very little in the Panthers' secondary. Over the past several seasons, he has had trouble making it through without injuries getting in the way.
He has been with Carolina for four years, and in that time, Carolina has had six different starters in the secondary. However, the Panthers' still are among the League leaders in pass defense.
Gillhamer is a well-liked member of the coaching staff, and will work to bring Nate Salley, Chris Harris, and others up to snuff fairly quickly in Meeks' new plan.
Ron Milus joined the Panthers' staff in 2009, and will be working alongside Gillhamer. Milus has over a decade of coaching experience, and helped Denver cornerback Deltha O'Neal make the Pro Bowl in 2001.
A cornerback for the University of Washington (1982-1985), Milus also is in the Top 10 Huskies in punt return average.
Now, Milus will be able to tutor Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall, and several others, hoping to match Meeks' aggressive style. Expect corner blitzes, and gambling route jumping this year out of the Panthers' secondary.
Sam Mills III is no stranger to the Carolina Panthers. His father, the late Sam Mills Jr, is one of the special Panthers in history. Mills Jr. is the only player in the Panthers organization in the team Hall of Honor, and is also the only player to have his jersey (N. 51) retired.
Mills III is one of the hardest working staffers in the organization. He breaks down game film, looking for tendencies, weaknesses, things to exploit or improve, long after the final whistle has sounded.
This year will be a very important year for Mills, as he adjusts his work to a brand new system. With Meeks' desire for speed, quickness, and pressure, Mills' attention to detail will be in high demand.
If Ron Meeks can gel this year's staff, as well as control the talent he has on the defensive side of the ball, Steve Smith (pictured) just might be slapping high fives with fans in the Super Bowl.