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Ron Meeks Rewind: What Panther Fans Can Expect from the Defense in 2009

There's been a good bit of speculation as to what kind of changes new DC Ron Meeks might bring to the Panthers defense in 2009, some very positive and some not expecting any changes at all. Will there be significant changes or not? I'm a firm believer that the past can many times predict the future so I thought I would dig around a little to see what was being said about Meeks before he left the Colts, things from seasons past that might give us a clearer picture. I began by sorting through old posts on Stampede Blue, SBN's Colts site as well as the I managed to find a few choice nuggets but overall...I'll let you decide.

First lets start with the positive stuff, that Meeks was very well thought of before leaving:

Somewhat off topic: Teams that could have head coaching vacancies next year - Stampede Blue
I personally think Meeks is an underrated coordinator, and should get a chance to lead a club. Alvin Williams would make a great DC somewhere.

2008 Rankings mean nothing... unless, of course... - Stampede Blue
The part about Indy having the best coaching staff in football is something I have never read anywhere. PFW's Matt Sohn is either a big Colts fan, or he knows more about football than just about every pundit in creation. I'm not sure I agree with him, but he makes a good point. Who is a better OC than Tom Moore? For the past three years, Ron Meeks has done an excellent job coaching the defense.

Meeks is also known for getting the most out of certain players. We've heard plenty about Sanders, Mathis and Freeney but here's another guy that was key to their SB run:

New position no problem for Morris - NFL - ESPN
"I don't want to say we turned to [Morris] out of desperation," said defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, "but we had to do something and we didn't have a lot of options. The other guy was giving us nothing and we couldn't keep getting that kind of performance if we were going to play the way we needed to play. Rob is a veteran. He's a pro. He's started a lot of games in this league and made a lot of tackles. Everything we do is predicated on getting people to the football, and Rob gets to the ball."

We've heard a lot about the defense getting to the ball so that is a very consistent comment. Now let's talk about some of the 'non-changes':

Colts signaling change in linebacker philosophy by waiving Buster Davis? - Stampede Blue
Former DC Ron Meeks rarely blitzed, and the result was a very strong pass rush and a dominant pass defense. Last year, they set an NFL record with fewest passing TDs allowed.

The Meck Deck " Blog Archive " Welcome to the Ron Meeks Era, Panther Fans
We’ll have to get to camp to find out, but the Brown pick up also makes me wonder if Tyler Brayton and Charles Johnson will see more reps at DT with Brown on board. Johnson especially is a Meeks-sized "rush" DT. The Panthers got Meeks more help in CB Sherrod Martin another big, versatile ballhawk in the mold of Charles Godfrey, who might blossom into a Pro Bowl safety this year. Martin will have ample opportunity to earn playing time, if he can grasp the complex schemes Meeks employs and avoid the injuries that shut him down for two seasons in college.

Though the Panthers often lined up 3 DE's on obvious passing downs I don't recall Charles Johnson being one of the them. With Everette Brown being the faster player and Johnson having more bulk I bet this prediction is on the money. Our front four on passing downs could easily be Brown, Johnson, Lewis and Peppers.

The mention of 'complex schemes' actually falls into the 'expected changes' in my book.The Panthers noticably simplified their scheme last season and it worked for about 8 games. Yet when they got to the Arizona game, a team they had already played, they were reluctant to change from what had gotten them there. We all know how that turned out so 'nuff said. The point is Meeks uses complex backfield schemes and fast linemen to get pressure. If they can confuse the QB for a moment or two that is all they should need.

In the name of fairness I had to include this last piece. Does this sound familiar?

So, how the F did we lose to the friggin' Chargers? - Stampede Blue
There are a ton of reasons why this defensive meltdown occurred. First and foremost, the game plan stunk. Less than a month after singing Ron Meeks' praises, I now have to crucify him. The Colts defensive line got zero pressure all game long. No blitzes were called. None. If some where, they were either few and far between, or so poorly executed they went unnoticed by San Diego's o-line. Bob Sanders was hardly used as a weapon to engineer a pass rush, much like he did against the Titans in Week Two. With Dwight Freeney IRed and Robert Mathis still not 100% (he was used as a situational pass rusher and not a starter), the Colts relied on Darrell Reid, Josh Thomas, Ed Johnson, and Raheem Brock for their pass rush. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

They were missing their best pass rusher and Mathis was not 100% so there is at least a plausible explanation.It does though sound very much like what I was saying after our loss to the Cardinals last season.

So that's what I could find and bet you agree most of this confirms things we have already learned. So in summary here's what I think I will expect from the defense in 2009:

  • A pass rush that rarely blitzes and relies on under-sized speed rushers to get to the QB
  • A more complex secondary scheme designed to confuse the QB and receivers
  • A more aggressive defense that insists on all 11 players flying to the ball
  • More turnovers as a result of the aggressive behavior, a new more complex scheme our divisional opponents have not seen
  • Fewer passing TD's given up and higher sack total from 2008

Let's bring it! Go Panthers!