Week 1 Player Review: Dontari Poe

Written by Andrew Parsons on September 12, 2012


It’s not hard to let the mind wonder about former Memphis, and current Chiefs DT Dontari Poe. We’re talking about a 6’4, 350 pound man (read: freak) that’s putting up 45 reps of 225 and running sub 5 forty yard dashes. I considered myself to be squarely in the “Pro-Poe” camp throughout the draft process, but it’d also be unfair to say that there were no concerns. If you were in love with Dontari, it likely wasn’t entirely based upon his play. Much of the time at Memphis, Poe was rather underwhelming, especially considering his level of competition. There were certainly a lot of things that needed to be adjusted technique wise in order for him to be a productive football player. However, I felt as if he showcased some natural skills that made him very much worthy of where he was drafted. These feelings weren’t solely due to his workout numbers and natural skills though. About every 10 plays, something happened. You saw the potential of Dontari Poe. You saw someone who could potentially take this league by storm.

Dontari Poe’s potential is limitless.

However, it certainly wasn’t realistic to expect these flash plays to turn into something we would see on a consistent basis every Sunday. Any team drafting Poe had to know that they weren’t going to get an instant impact player. I even saw some other Pro-Poe guys suggesting he might have to be inactive the entire year before he finally went on to contribute 2-3 years down the line. As far as the Anti-Poe crowd… most probably didn’t think he’d even be in the league in 3 years. My biggest issue with Poe was that he often failed to play with proper leverage in order to maximize his immense power. He found himself stuck between two scenarios: either he’d fail to extend his arms, which took away his ability to shed, or he over extended and doubled over at the waist, where it’s impossible to generate power through the hips and leg drive.

Poe working in training camp to shore up some of his technique issues.

But while the Chiefs knew they weren’t getting a bona fide stud right off the bat, they certainly weren’t keeping him inactive. In fact, in Week 1, they were starting him at NT, the ever so important piece of the 34 defense. So how did he fare? I personally thought he looked better than he did at Memphis. While Poe wasn’t a standout, impact player in this game, he was far from a detriment to the Kansas City defense. Gone were the cringe-worthy moments of seeing massively inferior offensive lineman pushing him 6-7 yards down the field. Poe actually did a solid job of occupying space (his main responsibility), and showcased some of the reasons he was selected as highly as he was.

Poe was a high draft pick for a reason…

One area in which he must improve upon is his handling of double teams. Poe seemed to be too focused on his primary target, and was thrown off balance by a quick punch from an assisting guard. Much of this is a leverage issue (this wasn’t going to get fixed overnight, but he’s certainly improving.)

After engaging with the center, a quick punch from the RG is able to knock Poe to the ground. Not only does this take him out of the play, but it allows the RG to get to the second level much faster and easier.

 

 

Similar to the last play, Poe’s poor technique leaves him in a compromised position. A hand check from the left guard will knock Poe to the ground once more.

Another area for improvement is Poe’s overall awareness. There were many occasions in which we were seeing all of Poe’s physical traits on display, but he was simply pushed past the play. However, the less “traditional” the Chiefs were with Poe, the better I felt his play was. One example of this is when they let Poe slant and shoot a gap. While Falcons C Todd McClure was able to use his veteran guile to handle Poe much of the game, on this occasion, Poe’s athletic ability was simply too much to handle:

On this play, Poe was sent on a slant to the weakside A gap. This took much of the “thinking” out of the play, and he was able to let his natural quickness, size, and strength take over.

 

In this second case, Poe was aligned on an outside shade of the LG, Justin Blalock. Only concerned with the B gap, Poe was not only able to win again with his superior athletic skills, but he actually showed vastly improved technique. When LT Sam Baker came down for the double team, Poe was able to use his size by throwing his body weight into Baker. This, combined with improved arm usage (better leverage), and Poe did not only keep himself upright, but he successfully split the double team. After that, he worked an impressive swim move to beat Justin Blalock and make a tackle for loss.

 

On this play, Poe isn’t in a “heads up” alignment. As opposed to earlier, when he feels the pressure from the LT coming down for the double, he throws his hips/backside into the assisting blocker. This not only prevents a successful double, but it also allows Poe to get skinny through his gap.

 

Poe already used his speed and size to get into a favorable position, and is able to disengage with a powerful club and swim move. He then finishes the play by making a tackle for loss.

 

What does this all mean? Basically, Poe’s not a finished product, but no one expected him to be. What he’s not doing is embarrassing himself, or being a detriment to the workings of the Kansas City defense. I personally think the Chiefs would be wise to continue to limit the amount of times he needs to 2 gap in your standard heads alignment, and do more to let him just use his natural talents. However, Poe still managed to show me the ability to belong as a starting member of the KC defense right now. This is invaluable, because he’ll be able to grow as a player as the season progresses, while still maintaining a presence in the middle, and even make some impact plays along the way.

Andrew Parsons

Andrew is an avid follower of the NFL and takes great interest in the NFL Draft. He has a background in football, and enjoys the process of watching and evaluating talent. Andrew appreciates the challenge that comes with scouting, and aspires to one day be a part of the decision making process for a team. See all posts by Andrew Parsons.