The Chiefs have more players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016 list than any other team, but there are also a few key players that don’t get the attention they deserve. Check out the last edition of Underrated Chiefs.
In the first two editions of this series of posts, I’ve pointed out individual players who, in my opinion, haven’t gotten the praise or attention they really deserve. For this week, I want to look a group of players who were solid for the Chiefs last season, but were often overshadowed.
When you think about the Chiefs’ defensive front seven, most of the first names to come to mind are linebackers. Pro Bowlers Justin Houston, Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali are some of the most recognizable names on the KC roster, and for good reason. Their play over the entire span of their careers has been noteworthy and each have contributed greatly to the recent successes of the Chiefs defense.
But the guys in the trenches for the Kansas City defense have been just as solid as the linebackers. The three defensive line starters especially have played great, but they rarely get the praise they deserve. This group of big men each bring something to the table.
Dontari Poe is the Chiefs DL most NFL fans have probably heard of. Poe was the first pick of the Chiefs in the 2012 NFL Draft, being drafted 11th-overall out of the University of Memphis. He is a two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle and is in the final year of his current contract, which will make him a huge priority to resign next offseason.
Poe is as athletic as a nose tackle can be. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 346 pounds, you wouldn’t be able to tell that watching him play. His explosiveness combined with a type of mobility rarely found in a nose tackle have helped him to 138 career tackles and 11.5 career sacks. The Chiefs also utilized him in a unique way last season, letting him run in a one-yard touchdown in San Diego (a play which made him the heaviest player to run for a TD in NFL history).
Allen Bailey might not be as well known as Poe. He is entering his sixth season in the NFL, being drafted 86th overall by the Chiefs in the 2011 Draft. The former Miami Hurricane really started coming into his own in the last three seasons. Bailey has 89 tackles and 10.5 sacks since 2013, stats that aren’t that far behind Poe. He also forced two fumbles last season.
The two biggest attributes of Bailey’s game that have been complimented recently are his strength and his intelligence. As a defensive end, strength helps Bailey be able to shed blocks and make tackles where he isn’t able to get the player completely wrapped up. This strength compliments his intelligence, helping him make decisions like how to try and get around the offensive lineman and when to try and make a play on a ball carrier coming around the corner.
On the other side of the line is Jaye Howard. Howard comes from the same draft class as Poe, being drafted 114th-overall by the Seattle Seahawks. He came to Kansas City before the 2013 campaign and has been solid the last two seasons. Howard has 65 tackles and 6.5 sacks while wearing red, including leading all Chiefs defensive linemen with 5.5 sacks last season. The former Florida Gator has proven to be a great compliment to Bailey on the other side of the line.
Howard was one of the big defensive re-signings the Chiefs had this past offseason. He received a two-year, $12 million contract, which ranks in the top 15 average annual value among NFL defensive tackles. His efficient play and growing work load shows that Howard is worth the money.
This trio of underrated defensive linemen are a vital part of one of the best defenses in the league. They each bring their own strengths to the table, and combined can be a nightmare for opposing offensive lines to block. Poe, Howard and Bailey should continue to show their worth and skill this coming season.