Playing to their strengths...



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Ron Meeks has been quite busy in his first week with the Panthers, learning about his new players while helping put together the defensive coaching staff.  (PHOTO FROM PANTHERS.COM TV / TOM BUTLER)

CHARLOTTE -- During games, successful defense is often predicated upon tactical adaptability.  That means not being wedded to a specific way of doing things, but having the flexibility to tweak and alter a plan to the strong points of the players.

The same is true strategically, which is a tenet of the coaching philosophy that new defensive coordinator Ron Meeks brings to the Panthers.

"You look at the players and the personnel here, the skill set, and there's a lot of things already in place," Meeks said. "We've just got to continue to try to improve on that, and take advantage of some of the strengths and weaknesses of the players.  You try to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses."

Meeks' work in formulating that strategy has barely begun; he will have the balance of the offseason to immerse himself in examination of the players he inherits.  For now, his focus is on settling into his new position after seven years as the Indianapolis Colts' defense coordinator and helping put together a defensive coaching staff after the departures of three position coaches since the end of the season.

"You've got to get a staff together and start working with the guys here," Meeks said. "Some of the guys have already been here for a while.

"The Panthers have done a great job here of assembling a good group of guys, a good group of players.  There's a coaching staff that's done a good job, and now, my job is to get that continued and try to improve to get guys to the place where everybody wants to go."

Meeks was successful in doing that with the Colts, helping guide them to seven consecutive playoff appearances, five AFC South titles and a world championship.  He was both teacher and student in Indianapolis, guiding a unit that included 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders, while learning from the stewardship of Tony Dungy, who recently stepped down after sharing the Colts' sideline with Meeks for seven seasons,

"Tony Dungy did a great job of having a system, as far as a team philosophy that really fit.  Talking with John Fox, he has the same type of philosophy, a solid foundation," Meeks said. "Don't make the players too robotic.  Let them play.  Let them have fun playing and be very effective."

Dungy's evidence on Meeks is apparent from their seven successful seasons together in Indianapolis.  But other coaches had just as profound an impact on Meeks' perspective in his quarter-century on college and pro sidelines.

"Dan Reeves, Jimmy Johnson, those guys have had a lot of influence on what I do -- even going back to my college coach, Jim Sweeney out in Fresno (State)," Meeks said. "There's a lot of guys you run across through your career.

"You take pieces from those guys and you place things in your memory bank and as you go along, you get a formula that you think is going to be successful.  You develop an attitude about how you want to do things."

And in a few months, Meeks will begin relating that attitude to his new players.

"The other defensive staff did a great job here," Meeks said. "The thing about it is, they made the players accountable for some of the things they did.  My job here is to keep that going, but also to try to improve on that -- on the basis of trying to take advantage of the assets that the players have."

He can barely wait to start.

"Any time you have a new opportunity, a new challenge, you want to get in and get the ball rolling," Meeks said. "I'm excited. I'm just that type of coach. You always want to get a new project going on."


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