Chiefs training camp: Defensive line is major strength


On offense, the Kansas City Chiefs are worried about the way their line will perform once the pads come up. It is no secret that the front wall has some issues, something head coach Andy Reid is hoping will be fixed come September. On defense, there is a different story to be told.

Kansas City has one of the best defensive lines in the National Football League, both in terms of starters and depth. The Chiefs have the best nose tackle in football with Dontari Poe, who is only entering his fourth year. Alongside him are returning veteran Mike DeVito and budding star Allen Bailey. Provided all three can stay healthy this season, this is a unit which can both stuff the run and rush the quarterback.

In the 3-4 defense, ends are typically asked to eat up blockers on the edges, allowing for the outside linebackers to make plays. DeVito is a classic example of this. In his eight-year career, DeVito has 2.5 sacks and 14 stuffs. It sounds like awful production, but it is not. DeVito has been doing a sound job for years, allowing those around him to flourish by taking two defenders at times.

Bailey is the rare player on the end who can both eat blockers and get to the quarterback. Last year, Bailey changed his body to a quicker, faster type. While his run defense suffered a bit, Bailey went from a rotational player to a stud because of his ability to disrupt pass play. With 41 tackles and five sacks in 2014, Bailey earned himself the four-year, $25 million extension given out by general manager John Dorsey.

Then there is Poe. Traditionally, the nose tackle is asked to take on a double-team. This provides the inside linebackers with access to make plays without the guards and center being able to get to the second level. A good nose tackle rarely has large stats but makes stars out of the inside linebackers.

Poe is not good, he is great. Last year, Poe registered 46 tackles and six sacks despite being double or even triple-teamed almost every down. Most impressively, Poe never comes off the field. Most nose tackles are not on the field come third down because they can’t rush. With Poe, he slides over to a defensive tackle role and gets after it alongside Bailey. Appreciate what you have in the 346-pound monster that is Dontari.

Additionally, this is a group with some serious depth. While sixth-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches is raw, he has an opportunity to develop nicely over the next few seasons. However, there are some immediate contributors coming off the bench in Mike Catapano and Jaye Howard. After being out all of last year with an illness, Catapano looks to return with vengeance. DeVito belives Catapano can be a Pro Bowler, something of a beautiful dream. Howard stunned many Chiefs fans in 2014 when he replaced DeVito and played very well.

Howard racked up 36 tackles and a sack, showing he can play the run and provide a bit of pressure. Howard is a decent starter, but he’s a tremendous rotational asset. Many teams would kill to have Howard in their 3-4 set as a starter, including the Denver Broncos. At 26 years old and entering his fourth season, Howard should only continue to get better.