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Several weeks ago, I remember when I created a thread delving into the differences between Steve Wilks and Sean McDermott, and how that may impact the defense. I mainly concluded (from some of the players own words) that there was a difference in Intensity, energy and expectation---a raising of the bar. There may have been a couple of huddlers that basically sneered at the thoughts as just "boilerplate." I am not going to mention any names, but here is the thread: Well, I doubt anyone is laughing now at the thought of this Wilks-coached defense being anything but more intense and energetic, as well as more expectant of pure excellence than in years past. People in the know are taking note, and one of those people is one of my personal favorites, NFL analyst Bucky Brooks. Brooks was already interested in the Panthers defense as evidenced by his blurb in an article last week, but when Julius Peppers said that this unit was the "best" that he had ever played on, Brooks' interest was piqued, and he went to see what exactly was happening for himself. So there you have it. Wilks is channeling his spirit of aggression through a clearinghouse of sorts, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, radiating it throughout the entire defense which has the football smarts, athleticism and speed as a unit and individually to do more than just sit back in a zone and wait to react while opposing offenses comfortably carry out their game plans. Wilks has the personnel to dictate to the opposition, so he is going to ratchet up the pressure to maximize efficiency, while balancing sustainability through the express expectation that good and great players will be able to handle their business at all times. There will be no lack of energy, intensity, expectation, or communication. He realizes and fully understands that he has the ingredients of a special defense, and is going to optimize it to the best of his ability. Call it a window if you like, but the mix of smart and young upstarts, and experienced older---yet capable---veterans is not going to last forever, and Wilks is primed to take advantage of this opportunity. The defense is not going to just spectate and react, but dictate and dominate. I suggest that you also read what Brooks has to say about Dez Bryant. I couldn't help but think of our receivers and how they will fare once they hit their prime, and whether or not they are or will be known individually as a "jump-ball god" (as Aqib Talib referred to Dez). Are our receivers seemingly part of the problem of our offensive woes like with Big Blue, or are our offensive woes more about coaching, QB decisions and play, as well as a lack of O-line play (but not just about O-line play) as is the case with the Giants? Brooks makes the case that it is a combination of questionable play calling, QB decision or indecision, the inability of receivers to separate, basically no running game, and bad offensive line play that are at issue with the Giants. As for the Panthers...I'll just say that I don't think that the receivers or the running backs are the main issues, per se, so far this year... http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000849394/article/dez-bryant-no-longer-elite-a-giant-problem-panthers-d-is-back
Like so many run-of-the-mill NFL players, Bucky Brooks became a football analyst and sports journalist, but with jobs as a professional scout in between. I think that it's his experience as a scout that gives his articles such interesting and insightful perspectives (at least in my mind). In his latest article, he discusses the importance of the offensive line, and tackles and left tackles in particular. He reasserts what we all believe: if you're lucky enough to have your franchise QB, protecting him should be your priority. Brooks also goes into the different ways that you can build that O-line and provides legitimate examples. Moreover, he discusses the huge difference that good coaching can make in the success and/or failure of different signal callers, using some of the first weekend's games as prime examples as in the case of Andy Reid with Alex Smith, and of course Sean McVay with Jared Goff. Good team building, coaching and teaching makes a difference, and with everything that Brooks pointed out, I couldn't help but think of all of these things in relation to our Carolina Panthers. Some may not think so, but I believe that the Panthers have a staff of teachers, like Rivera envisioned when he first came here, so I feel pretty great about that aspect in relation to Brooks' thoughts. I am a little more critical as pertaining to the team building aspect because Dave Gettleman and Marty Hurney were never perfect in my eyes, but relatively recent personnel moves are giving me varying degrees of optimism (however guarded) for the immediate future at the very least. We will see. Brooks didn't mention the Panthers in reference to the above, but he did mention the Panthers. For all the talk of offensive evolution during the offseason, it was the defense that caught Brooks' eye during the start of our regular season. The entire article is a must read for football types interested in team building and coaching philosophy and the like, and how it can have a profound impact upon success, but I'll leave what Brooks said about the defense here: » Carolina's new approach on defense: The Carolina Panthers have ranked as a top-10 defense in four of the past five seasons, but new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks is attempting to uphold the tradition utilizing a different approach. Instead of sitting back in traditional zone coverage with a few select pressures, the Panthers are attacking opponents with blitzes from all over the place. Against the 49ers, Carolina blitzed on 21 snaps (most in the NFL) leading to the third-highest pressure rate in the league on quarterbacks inside the pocket. While the increased blitz calls shouldn't rank as a surprise given the team's lack of an elite edge rusher (Julius Peppers is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL history, but he is past his prime at 37), the decision by Wilks to use more zone-blitz pressures is a bit of a departure from the team's conservative zone approach in previous seasons. Interestingly, the Panthers utilized their 3-3-5 personnel package on 19 snaps, yielding just 2.5 yards per play. The "Okie" package puts three defensive linemen, three linebackers and five defensive backs on the field to harass the quarterback with myriad pre-snap disguises and blitzes that confuse pass protectors at the line of scrimmage. With this combination of pressure and disguise also leading to more one-on-one matchups, the Panthers' blitz-happy approach could produce big results going forward. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000845643/article/does-nfl-have-offensive-line-problem-plus-jared-goffs-growth
Some of you like myself may wonder how Steve Wilks is really different from Sean McDermott from a coaching style or coaching philosophy perspective. I mean, we've already heard that the defense is going to be basically the same scheme-wise, so what's going to be so different? In my opinion, today's David Newton article kind of gives you the answers. The differences will be subtle and perhaps not even tangible to us fans, but they're there. One thing you should be able to perceive is more energy. “I’ve always said the speed of the package is determined by the speed of the leader," Wilks said. Wilks is not necessarily talking about speed, per se, he's talking about the team feeding off of his energy. And, of course, with more energy comes more intensity, which should be another difference that we should be able to perceive. “Coach Wilks, he brings a different kind of intensity to our defense," defensive tackle Star Lotulelei said. “Coach Wilks, he’s not in your face, but he’s not afraid to tell you how he feels. He’s going to tell you how it is and what he expects from you. “It’s a different kind of atmosphere. More intense." This is Star talking, people. Not trying to throw shade at all, because every player is different from a personality standpoint, but Star seems like a more laid back, less excitable kind of guy. So if he feels a difference in the intensity level, there's a difference in the intensity level. Now Star didn't expressly say it, but Wes Horton pretty much did, and that's about the bar that has been set. There may not be higher standards, per se, but Wilks expects the players to meet their expectations. “I just think from a style standpoint Coach Wilks brings just a little more of that in your face, like this is what we’re going to do, this is the bar that we’re setting and this is how we’re going to get it done." So there you are. More energy, intensity, and a raising of the bar: That's what Wilks is bringing to the table that will make the defense better than what we've seen in the he past. Sure, there will be other philosophical tweaks that you will see, because as Rivera points out in the article, McDermott was a linebacker and Wilks was a defensive back, but the energy, intensity, and an expectation that a player will meet expectations is the big difference from what I gather. There's more in the article regarding Wilks' take on a few players, including on Christian McCaffrey and how he affects the defense, so give it a gander. It's worth reading. http://www.espn.com/blog/nflnation/post/_/id/244696/steve-wilks-brings-a-different-kind-of-intensity-to-panthers-defense
A really good breakdown of our preseason first team defense and why it was so effective. The author both explains the concepts of zone and man defense, and breaks down how effective man coverage was against the Texans. Read it here. Here's a sneak peak: What this shows is how man coverage was effective with our secondary. As already said, Tom Savage dropped back on 4 snaps out of 6 the first team defense was in. 3 out of 4 of those snaps were man coverage, and the only reason we even employed zone was on a 3rd and long (3rd and 13), which was the best call for the situation. Lots of good knowledge and analysis in here. Recommend everyone read.