Aug 10, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe (92) on the sidelines against the Arizona Cardinals in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City won the game 27-17. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-US PRESSWIRE
According to some, the verdict on the Chiefs first-round pick Dontari Poe is already in after just one preseason game.
It wasn't that long ago that everyone and their brother was wondering if Eric Berry was going to become the elite safety that he was supposedly destined to become. He was a rookie safety that had given up a few touchdowns in pass coverage in his first few games and Chiefs Nation was on-edge. Sounds familiar because even with the Chiefs great performance last week against the Cardinals some people have found something to be on-edge about now.
Was it really so long ago that people forgot that Berry didn't come in and play at a Pro Bowl level right away? He DID struggle in pass coverage and Chiefs fans WERE nervous that he might not be the all-world safety that everyone described him as being when the Chiefs drafted him 5th overall. The level of 'how nervous?' each particular fan was at the time would obviously vary from fan to fan. Just as the opinion of how Dontari Poe fits in with this team and his role moving forward would change from fan to fan.
Hearing that Dontari Poe has become the 'put-him-on-blast' flavor of the week is sickening at this point. There is apparently some kind of idea out there that he's not 'on-course' for what this team needs him to do to be a productive member of this team. For those people that believe he's not ready and that he's not going to be a good player for this team I'd just like to know what he is supposed to do for this team? And to provide examples of players that are asked to do what Poe's being asked to do and were successful in their first EVER NFL game? Or even their first NFL season?
If you expected Dontari Poe to step in during the Arizona Cardinals preseason game and dominate right away by splitting double-teams and get tackles for loss then you're going to be disappointed with 90% of draft picks overall, and 99% of defensive lineman. You would have been disappointed with Tyson Jackson, and he turned out to be pretty good. (Even ESPN figured it out finally, they were just 18 months late to the party).
You would have been disappointed with Eli Manning, and he's won a couple of big games after being TERRIBLE when he first started. You even have to throw Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles in that conversation if you want it to hit a little closer to home. Those players were inconsistent at-best when they first got to the NFL, and yet we're attacking a rookie nose tackle of all people? It could easily be the hardest position in the NFL to come in and make an instant impact.
I loved Dontari Poe's comment during training camp about having to be 'a man' to play in the middle of the defensive line. He's not only facing grown men now, he's being taught a system in Romeo Crennel's 2-gapping defense that gives him the responsibility of tying up blockers and clogging holes. He's trying to be an immovable object when two guys on the other side (who are also on scholarship) have the responsibility of moving him. There's a reason that you don't see a lot of young NFL defensive lineman flourishing in a 2-gapping system. It takes time to develop this role.
The Chiefs have two of the best six run-stuffing, 2-gapping defensive ends in the entire NFL in Jackson (#1) and Glenn Dorsey (#6), and they didn't set the NFL on-fire when they first got into the league. It took time and they were developed by the same men who have had just a few weeks with Poe, a player with a ceiling higher than either of those other guys. The expectation that Poe should be dominating right now is as ridiculous as it is infuriating. Have we not learned our lesson in jumping to conclusions, even with defensive lineman specifically?
Everyone knew that Dontari Poe was going to need time to develop. I'm sorry but if you didn't know that then you weren't paying attention. One of the first things that Scott Pioli said about Poe after the Chiefs drafted him is that he loved his versatility and ability to not only play in the base defense as a nose tackle, but also as a pass-rushing defensive tackle in our subset defenses.
Last year the Chiefs spent about 50% of the time in each of these specific defenses, base and subset. It might take a year or two for Poe to learn the techniques and skills to effectively 2-gap in the base defense, but he should be able to contribute right away in our subset defense as a pass-rusher. So the Chiefs are getting value from him on the field in one aspect while he develops the other part of his game, which seems like the perfect scenario.
Some people want to point out the sudden success and praise that Anthony Toribio has been getting lately as some kind of a knock on Poe. You realize that it's alright if Toribio turns out to be good, right? One players' success and development over two years with coaches Anthony Pleasant and Romeo Crennel does not make another's development over a few weeks any less important moving forward, or exciting for that matter.
So for the Chiefs fans out there that aren't ridiculously rushing to judgement after one preseason game, remember that one of the best in the business in Romeo Crennel is developing a player with the size, strength, determination and work ethic unparalleled to players he's ALREADY developed. So don't worry about all the smoke being thrown talking about our rookie defensive lineman, there's no fire with this smoke.