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Showing posts with label Ron Meeks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ron Meeks. Show all posts

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hired - Steve Wilks, DBs coach

Steven Wilks comes to Carolina as defensive backs coach, replacing the recently fired Ron Meeks. Wilks was the DBs coach under Ron Rivera with the Chargers, and stayed for an additional year. Wilks was not fired, but his contract was up, allowing him to leave.

Wilks was Norv Turner's assistant head coach last year, promoted after Rob Chudzinski left last year (in a similar situation - his contract simply expired and he left). Wilks, therefore, as assistant head coach, was considered Turner's right hand man, and that's never a terrible deal.

There might be an alternate theory - that Wilks was promoted because he wasn't allowed to leave - and therefore got the additional title and money, to not leave. But then he would've likely been given an additional contract length, and that didn't happen. The Chargers were searching for a replacement because they apparently knew Wilks was leaving. Turner, who probably should've just promoted John Pagano when Rivera left, did so after firing Greg Manusky this year. That wasn't an incorrect move but may have allowed Wilks to walk.

If Wilks was in our plans after one year, where did that leave Ron Meeks? A further conspiracy might suggest that Meeks wasn't kept for any other reason than to place-hold for Wilks, who would've been Rivera's first choice; it wasn't to fulfill a contract obligation, as Meeks wasn't signed for longer than John Fox and his contract would've expired in 2010 as well. Either way, as hopeful as the Meeks hiring looked, it was a merit firing - Carolina needed change and Meeks' Cover 2 teaching didn't fit in our man, zone blitz, and disguise coverage looks.

Wilks was a collegiate player at Appalachian State, and returned to his hometown of Charlotte to play for the Arena franchise, the Rage. After numerous stops at Division II teams as a coordinator, he coached DBs for Notre Dame and Washington, then was hired onto the Lovie Smith/Ron Rivera Bears in 2006; he reunited with Rivera in 09-10 as his DBs coach again.

I personally hope that, even if no other moves are made (still hoping for that ST coach change to Taub), that the team hires an assistant DBs coach, a young guy that can help out (this is always where I felt like Mike Minter could've helped us).

Meeks as DBs coach, in the singular, was the first coach in many years that didn't have help. Alvin Reynolds was the assistant DBs coach here in 2002, and he became a Jaguars assistant under Jack Del Rio (third tier assistants can easily leave, if they're offered position coach work), Ken Flajole was the assistant the year after (he ended up taking over for Sam Mills, and then left for the Rams job he just lost), and Mike Gilhamer was the safeties coach after that.

Any DBs coach can use a hand (given that up to 9 may dress, and camp may have up to 25), so I'd be in favor of giving him just that; as well, DC Sean McDermott and the position coaches have always been on the field. No one of real authority on defense is in the coach's booth. Assistant DBs coach Cris Dishman, a former All-Pro, was Wilks's counterpart in San Diego, and is also free of a contract, so hopefully they pull off something like that.

Wilks has his work cut out for him - Chris Gamble was well above average, but the rest of the secondary is, at best, in transition or underperforming.

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.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Defensive Coordinator: Ron Meeks

Carolina kept their search quiet, and then quietly emerged with their choice, former Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks. Meeks, 56, spent seven years as defensive coordinator there under Tony Dungy, then resigned amidst speculation he was going to be fired under new head coach Jim Caldwell.

Meeks is the first African-American coordinator in any of the three phases for the Panthers (Jim Skipper, RBs coach, is as close as it's gotten, having been the assistant head coach for a few years now) and the team has never employed a black head coach.

It's telling that the one coach interviewed under the Rooney Rule (which requires the interview of minority candidates) was Tony Dungy, who essentially did the Panthers a favor by interviewing even though he intended to take the Colts job. Dungy, heavily admired by the Richardson family, may or may not have had an impact on the decision, but there's no doubt that Dungy felt as strongly toward Meeks as Caldwell had felt against him.

A Tampa-2 disciple, Meeks hadn't coached in the system until coming to Tampa, so the ties aren't necessarily as strong as you might expect. Before coming to Indianapolis, Meeks hadn't been a coordinator at the NFL level; he'd been a Dallas third-tier assistant (1991), then coached defensive backs with Cincinnati (1992-96), Atlanta (97-99), Washington (2000), and St. Louis (2001) before elevating his game. In 2002, he took a Colts team in disarray and molded it into a top ten defense.

Meeks, whose Colts defenses finished top seven in scoring five times over seven years, takes over a Carolina defense in shambles - its top defensive player, Julius Peppers, threatening to leave; its secondary in need of a shakeup; and its core rocked by giving up 30+ points in six of the last seven and then collapsing against Arizona.

A defensive backfield specialist, Meeks' style of play fits well with a secondary needing both a talent infusion and realignment. His style of defense fits well with stopping the passing game, and does well flowing to the ball. It has struggled to stop the run, however, and at times dipped near the bottom of the league. The Tampa 2 defense is much smaller than the Carolina style cover 3 zone, and it's unlikely the team uses the smaller linemen. It will take advantage of fast linebackers, which we have, and may use smaller linemen on pass downs, but probably isn't likely to get as small as the Colts on base downs. The Tampa version evolved into having a big nosetackle and a penetrating under-tackle, which the team already has players to use.

Nonetheless, each of the fundaments of defense need work - run defense, pass rush, and pass coverage. There won't be a fancy scheme, and deep down everyone knew there wouldn't be. There's no gimmick to hide behind. It's on the players, a man taking on a man and coming out ahead, a unit working together toward a common goal.