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.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 Fansided.com.
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