The Kansas City Chiefs drafted Dontari Poe 11th overall in the 2012 NFL draft. Poe entered the draft as the leading candidate to be the biggest bust in the draft. That is largely because of his incredibly impressive combine performance.
Poe reminds me of Haloti Ngata in that he didn't totally dominate in college despite his physically overwhelming presence and talents. Ngata and Poe were drafted at similar positions in the draft, as Ngata went 12th overall in 2006.
Ngata started all 16 games as a rookie when the defense ranked first in points allowed. Notably, the Ravens dominated opposition running games that year largely because of Ngata's presence and ability to fill two gaps.
Just like Poe, Ngata was drafted as a nose tackle. As Alen Dumonjic points out, Poe is being drafted to play the nose tackle position in Kansas City. Dumonjic believes that Poe will struggle to perform early on because, as he rightfully points out, he struggled to make an impact manning two gaps in college.
Dumonjic makes a great case against Poe early in his career, and he also writes a fascinating article about the scheme that the Chiefs run, but personally, I disagree with him. I don't disagree that Poe cannot play the role that the Chiefs scheme asks its nose tackle to do, but I do disagree that Poe can't have success in the NFL early on.
Scott Pioli is a fantastic general manager. Romeo Crennel is an outstanding defensive coach and has a great understanding of the defensive line.
Pioli and Crennel are intelligent enough to adjust their scheme to fit in talent. More importantly, the Chiefs roster has the personnel to allow that adjustment to be made. What people tend to overlook about Poe's placement in his new home, is his new surroundings.
Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey are labelled busts by people who watch statistic sheets rather than football games. People who watched football games last year saw Dorsey and Jackson dominate the running game and swallow up blockers.
When you place Poe inside of Dorsey and Jackson, you are playing him at the nose tackle position, but you can adjust his responsibility so that he becomes a defensive tackle. A penetrating defensive tackle is only responsible for one gap on the offensive line; a nose tackle must anchor two.
Just like Haloti Ngata does in Baltimore for the Ravens with Terrence Cody, Poe can focus on penetrating the pocket if Dorsey and Jackson are instructed to man two gaps in the running game.
An offensive line, without tight ends, consists of five players and four gaps. If each of your defensive ends is responsible for two gaps, then you can allow your defensive tackle to focus on penetration. This puts added pressure on your outside linebackers to hold up against the run, but allows you to have a greater all-around pass-rush.
With Justin Houston and Tamba Hali coming off the edges and Dontari Poe pushing the pocket, quarterbacks will be under severe pressure to get the football out next year.
Because of Dorsey and Jackson's abilities against the run, the Chiefs can pressure quarterbacks in their base defense without giving up gap integrity against the running game. Only the most cautious football minds would refuse to alter a scheme slightly to incorporate more talent.
Dontari Poe may not be Haloti Ngata from day one, but don't be surprised if he makes a strong case to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year...at least, Defensive Rookie of the Year to those who don't decide the award by statistics.
Much like Marcel Dareus did last year, Poe can have a fine rookie year without notching Aldon Smith type of numbers. Three to four sacks from the interior would be a big deal. Consistent pressure without costing the Chiefs in the running game could be a key component on a deep playoff run.
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