New defense makes Panthers' Davis tackling machine

CHARLOTTE, N.C. | When the Carolina Panthers took Thomas Davis with the 14th pick in the 2005 draft, coach John Fox raved he could be a "Derrick Brooks-type linebacker." Four years later, Davis for the first time is playing in the same Tampa-2 defensive system that Brooks thrived in with Tampa Bay. And in Week 1 he put up Brooks-like numbers. "Pretty much my best game as a pro," Davis said Thursday. The stats crew credited the weakside linebacker with 16 tackles against Philadelphia. After the coaches graded the tape, the total swelled to 18, with 13 solo tackles. While the performance was overshadowed by Jake Delhomme's five turnovers in the 38-10 loss to the Eagles, it wasn't forgotten in the Carolina locker room. "The little birdies are saying that's the position to have in this defense," strongside linebacker Na'il Diggs said. It sure seems that way. When Davis missed most of the preseason with a sprained knee ligament, backup James Anderson amassed 16 tackles over two games. "I think the biggest thing, it's set up for the [weakside] linebacker," Davis said. "It puts me in position to make plays and Sunday I was able to go out, run around, feel free and make plays." The Panthers changed defenses when coordinator Mike Trgovac left after last season and was replaced by Ron Meeks. He had worked in Indianapolis under Tony Dungy, author of the Tampa-2. It's a simple, zone-like system that relies on fast players and calls for much of the quarterback pressure to come from the defensive line. At his spot, Davis is allowed to often drop into coverage, read the quarterback and react. He said he often only has to beat one man to get to the ball. "I'm loving it," Davis said. "I hope it's going to keep paying dividends for me."