Kansas City Chiefs fans shouldn’t be too worried if rookie nose tackle Dontari Poe isn’t on the field for the first snap of the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on September 9 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Poe’s possible absence on the first play that the Chiefs defense digs in against Matt Ryan and Co. doesn’t put him on a sudden path to being a bust. Nor should it perk up memories of failed defensive line projects in the team’s recent past (Ryan Sims, Junior Siavii and Eddie Freeman).
What it means is that the Chiefs are taking their time with Poe’s development—something that the team and Poe could benefit greatly from, now and over the course of his career.
While it may seem in the best interest of both parties for the rookie to shed the “workout warrior” label as quickly as possible—putting to rest any notion that he may not live up to being the 11th overall pick—the Chiefs have a good enough supporting cast around Poe to ease him into his role with the team, even if that means that Poe’s exposure is limited in the beginning.
Second-year nose tackle Anthony Toribio is embracing his opportunity with the first team.
Though undersized at about 6'0" and 315 pounds, Toribio is a technician who doesn’t mind doing the dirty work in the trenches—something that a nose tackle in the 3-4 defense must do.
While Toribio focuses on what he is asked to do within the scheme, Poe has flourished in his role in sub packages at camp thus far, mainly as a pass-rusher.
If keeping things simple and limiting Poe’s responsibility early on creates the perfect combination for the Chiefs at the nose tackle position, playmakers like Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Justin Houston and Eric Berry could see a major boost in production in 2012.
And if Poe can accept his streamlined role within the Chiefs’ defensive schemes, his transition to the NFL will come with far less pressure than if he were just thrown into battle without the proper tools to protect himself.