For all the emphasis on getting new blood on the defensive side of the ball in the recent NFL draft, the Panthers had already made their biggest addition in new Defensive Coordinator Ron Meeks. Meeks impact was on display in the teams recent mini-camp as everyone saw first hand the contrast with former DC Mike Tyrgovac:
But after two days of minicamp practices, its clear new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks does things differently.
Safe to say the burly Mike Trgovac never ran alongside his players in drills. There weren’t too many instances of Trgovac dishing out high-fives in practice, either.
The small and fit ex-defensive back is all about energy.
“Well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?” Meeks said Saturday. “You identify yourself with how you practice and how you play. Instead of talking about it, you’ve got to try to do it. We try to have an up-tempo kind of thing. I think it’s going to be good for the guys.”
Without trying to make too much out of this I do think this is just the shot of energy the defense needs. A lot has been made of the defense giving up 29 points a game down the stretch last season. Injuries up front played into that but you could also argue, Jon Beason aside, the defense lost its spark in that time too. Maybe they lost confidence in what they were doing (scheme)? Maybe they lost confidence in each other” It’s obvious now that the guy many people looked to make a big play on the defense had his head elsewhere (do I really need to state who I’m referring to?). The first mini-camp of the season serves little purpose except as a meet and greet and to set the tone for what is expected when things get serious. I think its safe to say the players got the unsaid message:
Meeks is a fiery guy, out there running around,” Beason said. “You can see he’s in good shape so he can keep up with us.”
When it comes to the X’s and O’s we are all curious to see what he has in store for the front line. Meeks has a reputation for turning smaller, faster linemen into sack masters so when he talks about personnel we can’t help but listen:
Obviously we have a special guy with special talent in Peppers,” Meeks said. “Also Tyler Brayton is a guy that can get pressure. We went into the draft looking at some guys that can give us obvious pressure. We think Everette Brown can be one of those guys.”
“I think the biggest thing is we felt that his skill set will fit into what we’re trying to do” Meeks said. “We need to try to create some more pressure in passing situations. We felt having another guy opposite Peppers could get some production and some pressure.”
It’s nice to know that Meeks was involved in the evaluation and selection process, which isn’t exactly guaranteed when being hired into an established staff. The selection of DE Everette Brown shows they were all on the same page.
I think Meeks bigger challenge will be in the secondary, a unit that got too predicable and too comfortable running soft zone coverage late last season. Meeks will need to install some coverages that keep the opposing offense guessing on critical downs in order to make plays. He will need to coach the young players to recognize tendencies and learn to know when to break on the ball. The Panther defense of times past relied on the front four to create pressure and opportunities for big plays. Though we hope for a return of that magic in 2009 we would also like to see a secondary that creates some of their own opportunities.