The Physical Dominance Of Dontari Poe


The Kansas City Chiefs defense is off to a fantastic start. They have given up only 18 total points in two games thus far and one of those games was against a very talented Dallas team. They are among the league leaders in rush defense, are tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 9, and the new aggressive scheme implemented by defensive coordinator Bob Sutton seems to be getting the most of the talent on KC’s roster. Without question, the most improved player on this unit is second year nose tackle Dontari Poe. Poe was the Chiefs first round draft pick last season, not because he had a productive college career at Memphis, he didn’t. No, Poe was a first round pick because he possessed physical tools that simply can’t be taught.

Poe’s size is impressive. He is listed as 6’3″ 346 pounds on the KC website. However, Poe said he shed some of that weight this offseason, but still, that kind of size can’t be taught or developed. Then there is his speed. He was timed at 4.98 in the 40 yard dash at the combine. That’s impressive for any defensive lineman, let alone one weighing almost 350 lbs. Again, you can’t teach guys that size to be that fast. You either have it or you don’t. Finally, there is Poe’s physical strength. Too often in the NFL defensive lineman of Poe’s size rely on their weight advantage and don’t hit the weights like they should. That’s not Poe. Poe put up an impressive 44 reps of 225 lbs at the combine and is rumored to be able to squat over 700 lbs. This combination of size, speed, and strength made Poe too big of temptation for then head coach Romeo Crennel (a former defensive line coach) to pass on. Crennel believed that once Poe was taught the proper technique and adjusted to the NFL game, he could be a difference maker.

Lucky for KC fans, that day appears to have arrived.

Poe arrived at training camp already in great shape. He clearly took his conditioning seriously and even gave up BBQ during the offseason. For a guy that is from Memphis and plays in KC, that can’t be easy. Poe was a force all through training camp. He looked good in preseason games. Then he dominated the Jaguars in week one to the tune of 6 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Still, the NFL wasn’t quite ready to take notice. Training camp sensations fizzle all the time. Preseason heroes often wash out of the NFL and with how bad Jacksonville looks to be, no one knows what to make of how players perform against them. However, after his performance against the media darling Dallas Cowboys people are taking notice.

Nose tackles don’t put up numbers. That’s what we’ve been taught. That’s what we’ve told ourselves as multiple KC nose tackles failed to make a real game changing impact year after year.

“It’s not their job. They free up the other players to make plays.”

I’ve said it myself on multiple occasions, but things are different now.

Now the Chiefs appear to have one of those rare difference makers and the NFL world is taking notice.

How could they not? At his current pace, Poe would finish the season with 80 tackles and 28 sacks. Obviously that’s not sustainable over 16 games, but it still speaks to just how physically dominant Poe has been. Here’s a tweet from Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar:

If you don’t want to take Doug Farrar or I’s word for it, I have proof in photographs. Here are several screen shots from the game against the Cowboys that show just how physically dominant Dontari Poe is.

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In the above pick you can see Poe blowing past Dallas center Travis Frederick. Frederick simply is no match for Poe’s combination of strength and speed. This leads to the next picture….

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As you can see, by the time Frederick gets turned around, Poe has already covered almost 6 yards and is hitting Tony Romo. Dallas running back DeMarco Murray was coming out of the backfield as a safety valve, but Poe closed so fast that Romo had no chance to get rid of the ball.

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This pick is actually from a play where Poe wasn’t involved. However, you can still see how he physically dominated Frederick again. He’s pushed him back and is getting himself disengaged to give himself a chance to make a play. Because Murray broke it to the outside, Poe didn’t make the tackle, but had this play gone inside he would have had an excellent chance at a stop for a loss.

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What I’d like to draw your attention to in this picture is the fact that Poe is engaged with two blockers and yet has pushed the middle of the pocket five yards back from the line of scrimmage. That’s right, that blue line isn’t the first down line, but the line of scrimmage. Although Romo got this pass off, a QB simply isn’t as comfortable in the pocket when the interior is closing in on him and he can’t step up into it.

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This is the start of the play where Poe got his second sack. Again, he fires off the line very fast. In fact, look at how many yards Poe is from the line of scrimmage and then how far the Cowboy’s primary WR on the play, Dez Bryant, is off the line at the top of the screen. They are both about three yards past the line of scrimmage. In other words, our 340 lbs. nose tackle got off the line just as fast as a Pro Bowl caliber WR.

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Here’s the end of the play. Again, look at Poe’s ground covered compared to Bryant’s. Poe is 7 yards into the backfield and hitting Romo and Bryant is about 7 yards off the line of scrimmage (granted he is breaking inside, so he probably covered a whole extra yard more than Poe).

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This is the very next play after the sack. Most defensive linemen would be gassed after an explosive sack play. Instead of taking the next play off, Poe hustles down field on a run play and tackles Murray from behind 5-6 yards past the line of scrimmage.

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Here’s another play where Poe collapsed the pocket. With Tamba Hali coming on the blitz at the top of the screen the only way for Romo to extend the play would be to step up into the pocket. However, once again Poe has pushed the pocket almost 4 yards back from the line of scrimmage and Romo has no choice but to rush the pass. Keep in mind, this is getting to be later in the game when larger defensive linemen like Poe often are gassed. Poe has been playing almost every defensive snap and is still dominating.

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One last pocket push. This one he is double teamed again and is still 5 yards in the backfield. Romo is having to stand almost 8 yards back of the line of scrimmage in order to get a pass off.

Dontari Poe has been nothing short of spectacular to start this season. I don’t know what will happen once teams take notice of just how good Poe is. They will probably start to scheme around him and his numbers will drop off. However, when that happens it means that other KC defenders will have less offensive blockers to worry about. When you add in the fact that Bob Sutton loves to overload areas with blitzes, this should add to more sacks from other players since the line is having to account for Poe.

So when the KC defense takes the field against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, don’t let all your focus be on what Chip Kelly’s offense is doing. You can make a pretty strong argument that through two games this season Dontari Poe has taken the NFL by storm even more than Kelly’s college offense has. So sit back and watch the Chiefs new dominant force, Dontari Poe. He’s something special.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Check out my latest Armchair Quarterback’s Guide To The NFL: Week 3 on

Follow me on Twitter: @LyleGraversen

Tags: Dontari Poe Kansas City Chiefs

  • berttheclock

    Lyle, it might have better to show how Poe lined up against Frederick. I am referring to your series of photos showing him blowing past Frederick. If you could go back to the lining up, you will notice he lined up directly in front of Frederick. When the ball was snapped, Poe jumped to his right which caused Frederick to shift to his left. Immediately, Poe jumped back to his left and accelerated up field directly into Romo. Poe looked as though he was a huge cat toying with an opponent. Once again, Poe is demonstrating his huge athletic prowess which his college coaches never really understood how to utilize and maximize. If any blame be laid to his college days, it lies with those inept college coaches at Memphis. It does not lie with Poe. Thanks, once again to Romeo for recognizing how he could develop that talent.

    • berttheclock

      I have not seen such abuse of a center since the days when the KU football alums would come back for an Alum game. Mike McCormack, the future HOFer lined up across from Chet Vanatta, a large center, who had transferred from Oklahoma. If the KU QB went to his left, Mike would slap Chet upside the left side of his head and blow past him. If the KU QB went to his right, Chet’s right side of his head would start to ring. If the QB dropped back, Mike would shove Chet’s face into the turf. After the game, both would come back to the Sigma Nu frat house and Chet would try to laugh about it. Mike McCormack was a living legend at that frat. In fact, John Hadl had been told he had won the special “Mike McCormack Scholarship” to entice him to join the Sigma Nus. Hadl did become a member. However, there never really was any such scholarship, but………………

    • Calchiefsfan

      It was unbelievable how quickly Poe got to Romo after he put that swim move on Frederick. It looked like Poe was shot out of a canon. Romo had no chance. If Poe plays like that tonight it’s going to be long night for the Eagles offense. San Diego’s front 7 is nothing like KC’s. It will be interesting to see how the Chiefs D fares against the Eagles fast paced offense.

  • Stacy D. Smith

    Tonight Poe will face tight end Travis Kelce’s brother Jason. You can be sure that Trav’s told Dontari everything he needs to know about his big brother!

  • berttheclock

    Mr Poe needs a better moniker, but, Big Cat would put him in the same category as Leon Lett and Ernie Ladd. Not bad company from a defensive standpoint, but, surely, someone can come up with a new moniker for Donatari-O.

    • oldchiefsfan

      I say we go X-Men and just call him The Beast

    • Chris Tarrants

      Jokingly I’ve been calling him Tony Danza because he is the boss

    • Shaman

      My brother and I call him Kung Fu Panda, since he;s a big guy that can move and his name is Poe.

    • ArrowFan

      Poe Knows has already been thrown out.

  • Blake Molina

    I like the point Lyle makes about Poe’s motor. One of the reasons I justified picking Poe (because admit it, we all were wary) was his effort in college film. Memphis has a terrible team, and yet even being down by 30-40, film shows Poe still playing as if it was 0-0, both in effort and conditioning.

    • berttheclock

      Didn’t those college coaches have him playing up and down the defensive line? Many of the teams he faced ran the spread and, if I remember something one of the scouts said about him, they tended to run away from him. Glad Romeo saw his talent as I was a DeCastro fan. Romeo was very correct.

      • Blake Molina

        Yeah they did, and yet, there was a 350 pound lineman running 10-20 yards chasing down running backs as if he fell off the wagon and that RB was a plate of ribs.

      • Calchiefsfan

        I was a DeCastro fan too. Glad to be so wrong though I still think the Chiefs are 1 dominant guard away from becoming an elite o line. Once Fisher starts to get going that is.

  • Calchiefsfan

    Great article Lyle. Poe really has been the difference in KC’s D this year. Sutton has done a great job. This will be a great test tonight. I think they stand a solid chance of putting the brakes on Chip Kelly’s offense.

  • IceChief27

    Not to mention Phily’s Center Jason Kelce goes about 290. That’s about a fifty pound difference. They are going to have to double him almost every play just so he won’t dominate their center.

  • Chris Tarrants

    Great piece! Poe is the key to victory tonight plain and simple. If Vick is pressured and rattled then he will come unraveled like he always does but if we get no pressure then he will pick apart our secondary and we are in for a long night! So somebody give Poe, Hali. And Houston a big ass plate of pasta!!! Carb load and dominate

  • ArrowFan

    If he drops another 50 lbs he could be the best LB in the history of the league:)

  • ArrowFan

    There is our first pro bowler on this years D.