Player Personnel Changes Hint to Changing Panthers Playbook

Jennette GrayContributor IMay 28, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 28:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after a defensive stop against the Indianapolis Colts during their game at Bank of America Stadium on October 28, 2007 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Much has been said, written, and extrapolated about the Panthers’ hiring of former Colts defensive coordinator, Ron Meeks—and with good reason. Meeks did a solid job in Indianapolis.

However, the biggest change in the Panthers’ playbook for 2009 will most likely be the result of the personnel changes—both players and coaches—they refused to make.

It seems that in recent weeks, Meeks has hinted that the new Carolina defense will resemble the “Tampa Two.”

This makes perfect sense for a team that refuses to part ways with a quick, agile, and disgruntled defensive end.

Julius Peppers wants out. But the Panthers are refusing to part. 

Moving to a defense similar to the “Tampa Two” would capitalize well on Peppers’ speed and agility. Last year Peppers racked in 14.5 sacks. Problem is the rest of the line only got 8.

just how close the defense will resemble the “Tampa Two” is really unclear. Both of the players at the tackle position for Carolina are bigger than the tackles typically used in the scheme. And there’s still the far-fetched chance that Peppers—who hasn’t shown up for any team activities yet—will decide he’d rather not play than continue to play for the Panthers.

Looking strictly at personnel, the first assumption would be that whatever the incarnation is, it will be yet another version of a 4-3 defense.

The Panthers have two formidable tackles in Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis, who would be useful in stopping the run. They also seem to be Hell-bent on continuing to use Julius Peppers as a defensive end.

What I would love to see implemented would be a 3-4 formation with Julius Peppers moving to middle linebacker. 

It’s what he wants. And it would free him from the line and allow him to do what he does best—get to the ball.

Going to a 3-4 defense could also help the Panthers’ depth chart, giving them protection against injuries and the fatigue they seemed to be plagued with at times last season.

This could also help shore up the middle of the field. Peppers has the speed to rush and recover. Having him at middle linebacker would give the Panthers the ability to send a two-, three-, or even four-man rush without totally marooning support to the safeties.

Am I wrong to dream? Maybe not.

The Panthers did make moves to bring in lots of defensive ends during the offseason.  Many have speculated that this was to ensure them against Peppers’ future departure.

It could be that they are considering letting him make a positional move. Of course, that would depend on how fast Everette Brown develops and whether Tyler Brayton (or any of the other DEs) can step up his game.