The moment that the draft card for Dontari Poe was turned into the powers-that-be at the 2012 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, it seemed the team had already memorized the necessary rhetoric about the defensive tackle's long-term development.
Fans of the Chiefs learned a few things about Poe very quickly: the team had targeted him all along, his workouts were amazing, his level of competition at Memphis was subpar and the learning curve was going to be steep.
Through it all, the team said to expect very little from Poe up front. Romeo Crennel and other assistant coaches talked about the long-term nature of Poe's impact and how it takes a significant amount of time -- multiple seasons even -- for defensive linemen to learn the proper technique needed to succeed in the trenches. For a fan base still waiting for Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey to turn in a Pro Bowl season, patience was a word that was already in their vocabulary.
Now that week one is here in the NFL, all of that is gone. Or at the very least, things have changed significantly. Poe has been summoned. He will be needed -- not only against the Atlanta Falcons, but for the duration of his rookie year.
It's not that Poe will not need several games to get into a groove or that he will not continue to develop as the season's go on. But it's clear that the Chiefs have not made the investment at the position needed to maintain their initial stance.
If they really wanted to bring Poe along slowly, then they should have brought in a veteran free agent (i.e. last year's acquisition of Kelly Gregg) to help mentor and fill-in. Instead the team has rolled with familiar faces like Anthony Toribio and Jerrell Powe. The team is simply too thin at defensive tackle to take Dontari Poe's presence as anything but a player set to earn major playing time, a player upon whom the team is counting on to deliver at the point of contact for a significant portion of each game.
For Sunday's opening contest against the Atlanta Falcons, injuries further deplete the position to the point that Poe's first game as a professional football player will be one of his most meaningful. Anthony Toribio has been plagued by injuries and it will be surprising if Allen Bailey plays at all.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Chiefs have been working out several defensive players this week in the face of injuries but none of them are along the defensive line. Chris Cook got a workout at linebacker while Bobby Carpenter among others got some reps at linebacker in front of Scott Pioli and his staff. But despite the listings on the injury report, no one reported to Arrowhead to help bolster the defensive line.
The reason has been made clear at this point: Dontari Poe is a player the Chiefs believe will make an impact from day one. It should not be surprising if Poe warrants a lot of playing time against the Falcons. If the Chiefs are right, he could also make a strong impact. While no one from the Chiefs has directly said it, it's clear from their lack of roster moves that Poe is expected to make significant contributions from the outset.
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