To 3, Or Not To 3: That Is The Chief Question



You asked for it. You wanted a good team. Now, it looks like you’ve got it. The Chiefs even have some good players on the bottom third of their 90 man roster. So, you have to accept all of the challenges that come with having a roster littered with good players. The Chiefs can’t keep them all and someone, who is a very good player, is going to get cut by the Chiefs this year — or end up on the practice squad.

It’s epic really. The tension has reached — well — Shakespearean soap opera proportions!

The popular positions talked about this summer have been running back and wide receiver. However, in looking over the Chiefs game tape from their first two preseason games, it shows that they have three strong candidates at the nose tackle position.

Anthony Toribio, rookie Dontari Poe and second year man Jerrell Powe all looked pretty good in the first two games of the preseason but, it looks like only two of them will nest on the active roster while the last will be shuttled off to Buffalo, better known as, the practice squad dungeon. Although, if they’re not careful, one of them could actually end up in Buffalo playing for the Bills.

Now, we know how head coach Romeo Crennel feels about Anthony Toribio because he’s made it clear A.T. is his starter. “He’s a technician.”

The difficult part of this equation involves Poe and Powe.

The Chiefs already have tough decisions to make at wide receiver and running back because GM Scott Pioli has gone a-hunting this offseason and returned from his excursion with extra pelts. Keepers. Which apparently can’t all be kept.

You might think, “Hey, this is a good problem to have.” However, this creates a new problem, which is — when there’s no room in the inn, you may be forced to expose a “savior” to the rest of the league — and for that you could be demonized.

Certainly the Chiefs won’t be exposing first-round pick Dontari Poe by sending him to the practice squad. So, that’s an option that appears to be no option at all.

Toribio is the starter and he’s staying put.

So, the question is — has Jerrell Powe shown enough this preseason (as well as off season OTAs) to make the Chiefs uncomfortable placing him on the practice squad and making him vulnerable to other 3-4 teams needing NT depth?

To me the answer is yes. I’d want to keep Powe on the 53-man roster.

Now, that presents other problems.

If Jerrell Powe were flexible enough to play DE as well as NT then this decision would be easier. Compare Powe to Amon Gordon or Glenn Dorsey — both can, and do, flip back and forth from DE to NT. Of course Dorsey is going nowhere this season but, Gordon appears to be a DE alternative to Ropati Pitoitua who would serve as a very good rotational DE. However, I think Ropati wins that battle — although it’s probably one or the other. If the Chiefs keep Gordon then the need for a third NT in Powe diminishes — soap opera over. However, for that to happen, GM Scott Pioli would have to admit he made a mistake in the offseason signing of Pitoitua and that seems less likely. Besides that, Ropati has played well and deserves to land among the righteous 53.

A strange side note to this ongoing drama is the fate of Amon Gordon, who came in and took a major portion of the snaps at nose tackle last year. Now, he appears to be on the outside looking in.

Chiefs announcer Mitch Holthus said last week as camp was coming to a close that he thought the Chiefs would not be carrying more than 6 defensive linemen. If you look at the extra high quality running backs and the extra quality wide outs — if the Chiefs keep extra players in those positions or even the offensive line — then 6 DL might actually be the limit that can be kept.

With 1) Tyson Jackson, 2) Glenn Dorsey, 3) Allen Bailey, 4) Anthony Toribio, 5) Dontari Poe and either Ropati Pitoitua or Amon Gordon making the team — where does that leave Jerrell Powe. No, he hasn’t impressed at practice in camp but, he appears to be a gamer — someone who shows up on game day and that can’t be ignored.

As I’ve watched back over his game tape in the two preseasons game — yes, he’s been out of position at times and yes, he’s missed his reads at times — but there’s no denying his ability to get up field and cause havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. He gets his pads lower — with power — than any NT I’ve seen in a long time. Those qualities can’t be easily discarded with yesterday’s newspaper. The Chiefs have made it a very public point this offseason  to improve their pass rushing ability from the interior and Powe gives them that ability. In fact, I think he’s doing a better job at that than Dontari Poe — up to this point.

The solution appears to be to keep three nose tackles this season.

Do I think the Chiefs will do that? Probably not. The other positions where the Chiefs have high quality players accumulated would likely be too much for them to consider three NTs.

However — name the last time the Chiefs had viable nose tackles numbering at three — how bout two — one? For a defense that is designed around solid NT play — it appears to be critical that the Chiefs keep them all. Yes, the Chiefs also run a 4 man front rotation but, if they can’t get a pass rushing “push” when their base 3-4 package is in the game, then other teams will throw all over them every time they go to the 3-4 set.

That’s exactly what happened on the first play of the St. Louis Rams game when QB Sam Bradford hit WR Danny Amendola for 35 yards. The game went downhill from there.

Aside from the QB position and the OLB position — is there any more important position where you just can’t have enough of those position players? You can’t have enough good nose tackles can you? Can you?

Not as my world turns. However, the Chiefs are the ones writing this mid-summer night’s soap opera script themselves.

If I had to give the Chiefs previous season a soap opera nickname it would be — “General Hospital.”

This year, it would be – “The Young and the Restless” — because these are the days of our lives when it’ll take a guiding light to make a decision that is befitting of the bold & the beautiful.

For… a nose by any other name — is still a nose. Especially a good one, and the Chiefs may have three.

 

Is there an Addict here among us who would not admit that parting with one of our nose tackles would be such sweet sorrow? Especially if we don’t get a draft pick for them!?

 

  • dongtogolo

    I would hate to see Powe go. He’s gonna be a good one. Poe can play some DE. Coach him up for both positions and let Gordon go.

    • ladner morse

      I think Powe can be a good one too and would hate to see him go elsewhere and blow up for them.

  • DoubleD

    Let me say at the outset, I am in favor of the idea of keeping all 3 if at all possible. That said, one thing needs to be kept in context here is that Powe has essentially only gone against 3rd/4th string competition while both Poe and Torribio have been squaring off against both 1st and 2nd stringers.

    • ladner morse

      I see the potential for all three to be above average nose tackles and Poe has a chance to excellent just because he has that body. Time with the first stringers is a little different than getting a third string QB time withthe first team. They can run him in there anytime they want — and have likely done that during preseason camp.
      In any event — I trust Crennel more than Pioli to make the call and if his call is to keep all three — I’ll be good with it.

  • DoubleD

    Another consideration in this overall equation is whether both Dorsey and Jackson will be resigned to long term deals. If the answer is that, say, only one can/will be resigned, then you have to think about overall DL needs for the future, player development aspects, and whether free agency can/will be a viable part of the longterm solution.

    • ladner morse

      As far a a nose tackle is concerned… only Dorsey figures into that equation though. So, let’s say that somehow other teams value Dorsey more in free agency — which he could anticpate beingthe case — and so he tests those waters and walks. If we just dumped Powe who is admittedly developmental but we lose Dorsey the same year and somehow Dontari Poe doesn’t turn out to be the best Chief he can be… or an injury comes along to either Poe or Toribio……………. then the Chiefs are back in the same situation they have been in for a long long time — and that’s not having a viable and legitimate nose tackle who can hold up two players when necessary and split the gap when called upon. To this point we haven’t really had anyone who could ever do both.

      • KCMikeG

        I’m with you Ladner. Keep them all to better plan for Dorsey’s departure for next year. Most of them can play multiple positions which is critical for injury depth insurance. Poe will come along over this year and be a beast next year. Pitoitau was a fantastic pick up by Pioli that gets very little notice and will be a great force just like Toribio from the GB practice squad. Hooray for the scouting department and keep it coming.

        • ladner morse

          Michael… just want you to know I enjoy your comments as much as I enjoy leaving my own. I like your take.

  • KC_Fanactic69

    Like DoubleD I am all in favor of keeping all 3, Toribio, Poe, & Powe, on the 53 man roster along with Pitoitua. This leaves Gordon as the odd man out. Gordon has not been all that impressive so far this year and to be honest, his only real advantage is that he can play both NT & DE. Nevertheless, he is not any better, if as good as any of the 4 others nor does he have their youth or upside.

    Although Poe is a Rookie and is still learning the nuances of Crennel’s 3-4 2-gap NT position he is far more athletic & quicker than Gordon and could, in a pinch, be put in at DE. There is no doubt he is quick and strong enough plus he has the height – what the coaches call “length” to play the position.

    If the Chiefs did try to slip Powe through waivers to be resigned to the Practice Squad I’m certain we would lose him sooner rather than later. Besides even if we did manage to get him onto the Practice Squad, he would be constantly exposed to being poached by another team. Obviously the Chiefs felt the same way last year because they kept him on the 53 man squad even though he only dressed out for one game and then only played for a few snaps!

    If the Chiefs are going to put a defensive lineman on the PS I would expect them to put either Ethan Johnson and/or Jerome Long on it rather than even try to put Powe on it. Both E. Johnson & Long are obviously developmental projects who we need in case we lose either Dorsey or Jackson to injury or Free Agency.

    Personally I believe Pioli fervently believes in building & nurturing young talent within the system. You only have to look at how long they stuck it out with Barry Richardson before they finally giving up on him to see what I mean.

    • ladner morse

      Yes, yes, yes… and I think the critical piece here is not so much the question about Powe but… Ethan Johnson and Jerome Long and whether or not — as developmental players — Pioli and Crennel actually value them enough to be future replacements for either Dorsey or Jackson. If so.. it effects trade plans, draft plans and the signing of other FA DEs in the coming year.

      Well thought out.

  • Chief Phil

    I know this is about the NT position, but I’ve gotta say it…. What about Alex Tanney instead of Ricky Stanzi? Reports from camp say he’s as accurate as his youtube video shows him to be…. Doesn’t the man at least deserve a shot in the preseason??? How much you want to bet that the Chiefs sleep on him and this season or the next he’s shredding up defensive backs for another team? The guy is more accurate than a bunker buster locked on Osama Bin Laden from 60 yards away. What the hell, Chiefs?

  • Chief Hokie

    Why not put Stanzi on the ps and keep Powe on the 53 man roster? Do you think anyone would seriously sign him after the way he’s played?