How many of us have honestly closely paid attention to the Indianapolis Colts in recent seasons? Sure, we’ve watched them win some playoff games and a Super Bowl but we watch our Carolina Panthers much more closely.
How much do we know about the defense that Ron Meeks will bring to Charlotte?
Statistically, the Colts finished the ’08 season 11th in total defense (310.9 ypg), 6th in passing defense (188.1 ypg) and 24th in rushing defense (122.9 ypg).
In 2007, the Colts were third in total defense which had been a major improvement over 2006 when they were 21st.
There were well-known players in Indy as well in DE Dwight Freeney, DE Robert Mathis, SS Bob Sanders and CB Kelvin Hayden. Meeks has left all of them behind now to take over a different group.
The unit he inherits in Carolina compares fairly well to the one in Indy. But we’ve outlined five questions that Meeks and his new staff in Charlotte will have to answer prior to the kickoff of the 2009 campaign. Check it out after the jump.
1. There is no Dwight Freeney on the Panthers’ roster and it’s very likely that there won’t be a Julius Peppers either. Defensive end was a strength for Meek’s defense with the Colts but could wind up being a liability in Charlotte. If Peppers is gone, he’s left with Tyler Brayton, Charles Johnson and a cast of backups. This could be a priority in the draft and free agency if the most recent malcontent leaves.
2. Can Chris Harris be the Bob Sanders of the South? Sanders made his living racking up receivers who came over the middle, being opportunistic and creating turnovers. His presence in the Colts’ secondary was, without question, a major reason for their success. Harris is known as a solid hitter and is outstanding at forcing fumbles. If Meeks does with Harris what he did with Sanders, then there could be a star in the making at strong safety in Charlotte.
3. Linebacker wasn’t the strongest position in Indy. Meeks was able to get the most out of who he had, though. In Carolina, he’ll have Jon Beason in the middle to build his linebacker corps around. That’s a solid start. Most importantly, what production he gets from Na’il Diggs and Thomas Davis could determine his success or failure.
4. If he can make Nick Hayden a valued commodity, he should almost certainly be able to do the same with guys like Richard Marshall since Chris Gamble already got his money. (And it’s assumed the Ken Lucas will be released.) The secondary has been a sore spot and was a major liability down the stretch last season. Meeks has to get these guys, especially the corners, to raise their game.
5. We’ll call the comparison between the Colts’ and Panthers’ defensive tackles a push. But Meeks will be working with two solid guys in Damione Lewis and Ma’ake Kemoeatu. They proved their worth to the defense when they missed action. If Meeks can develop more depth in the defensive line’s interior his job will be a great deal easier.