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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Meeks: What To Expect

A lot of the Ron Meeks press coverage in the last few days has surrounded two things.

What will the new Carolina defense look like, and how much will John Fox meddle?

Fox stepping in at two different points of Mike Trgovac's worst run of defense over the last two years, in a career that was generally pretty beneficial for both, has gained a lot of attention. Most know that then-rookie Jon Beason's elevation to starting MLB after gaining some work on the weakside early in the year brought John Fox into defensive meetings; the results were great. Beason came up to speed fast and never has let up since.

But the second time, around the bye week of 2008, when the defense really started to struggle, has brought a lot of "chicken or the egg" arguments. Did the defense falter and John Fox saw it coming and tried to save it? Or did Fox step in and the meddling became both a distraction and a tug of war that caused dissonance among the ranks?

We'll never really know, but the media's taken sides on the issue. It seems, if you're connected to Carolina but stay on the beat, you're cautious about blaming Fox, but if you're out of earshot, you're more likely to bash the coach who tends not to be friendly to media. There remains doubt how much of the defense will be Meeks' design and how much will be Fox's.

But remaining the defensive scheme of the last seven years doesn't change the amount of latitude that Meeks will have with his defense. Some believe he's a Tampa-2 defense puppet - a guy who did nothing but run Tony Dungy's defense. Others believe him to have an aggressive defensive personality that had to be conservative to meet Dungy's needs. The end result is that the Panthers will likely stay with a zone-based 4-3 one gap defense, and that the calls will vary. Some Cover-2 concepts will be involved, and some of the traditional cover-3 will stay.

On the up side, Meeks' style of coaching is being talked up by important people in the football world. Citing flexibility toward talent and a tireless work ethic, Meeks is being lauded as a positive force instead of a heavy handed yeller; he's being given a lot of press for being from the Dungy School of Mutual Respect. Regardless of whether John Fox gets involved, meddles, oversees, micromanages, macromanages, or gets fired and Jim Skipper is elevated, Ron Meeks will do his job to the best of his ability and his units will be well-prepared, will have good technique, and will have a young unit ready to bust heads and flow to the ball.
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