The Panthers announced their defensive coaching staff this week, having earlier named DBs coach to be Ron Milus and LBs coach as Richard Smith. They rounded the staff out with Brian Baker for the defensive line.
Baker and Milus come from the St. Louis Rams, where they were part of an underwhelming defense that finished in stiff contrast to the 2008 Colts of new coordinator Ron Meeks. The Rams finished near the bottom in every category on an awful team, while Meeks' Colts finished near the top. Likewise, the Richard Smith-coordinated Texans defense failed where the Colts' defense excelled.
But fear not, these are solid hires. They're not the flashy names (who, by the way, are still unemployed, and look to be out of work for 2009), but they're still good names. Smith is a fiery coach whose stint as a coordinator had mixed reviews, but he was an ace linebacker coach with the 49ers and Jaguars on good defenses. Baker's young DL in St. Louis always played from behind - being forced the run down their gut and having no opportunity to play in an even game; Milus' defensive backs got picked on early and had no opportunity late. Each of these men have had success in the league, and will bring a lot to the table.
Of the trio, I'd call Smith the strongest, Milus the weakest. Milus hasn't shown stable work as a pro, having some flashes of success and stories of specifically tutoring young players who blossomed, but then oversees units overall that are weak. Smith is a heartfelt, emotional leader that should be a good match to the power of Jon Beason and Thomas Davis; his somewhat cheesy motivational techniques as a Texan shouldn't apply under the calculated Meeks defenses.
Baker's involvement with the DL in Minnesota got the ball rolling on the power they have at DT in the Kevin/Pat Williams duo; he also coached Lance Johnstone to 15 sacks as a situational end. He pulled success out of Leonard Little in St. Louis on a bad team that didn't have anything at DT and didn't have Grant Wistrom any longer.
John Fox gave similar comments to each when hired - good teacher, good communicator. Good energy. These seem to be the common elements to the staff, the first completely new unit in seven years.
Coordinator: Ron Meeks*
DL: Brian Baker*
LB: Richard Smith*
DB: Ron Milus*, Mike Gilhammer
Coaching Assistant/Quality Control: Sam Mills III