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Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe (92) celebrates after sacking Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (not shown) in the first half at Arrowhead Stadium. (John Rieger,USA TODAY Sports)

The Front Three: A Look at the Kansas City Chiefs Defensive Line

Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Tyson Jackson (94) tackles Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25). (John Geliebter, USA TODAY Sports)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Again. They did it again. I watch as the Kansas City Chiefs select a defensive lineman for the third time in six years. Dontari Poe, Memphis, 11th overall pick, 2012 NFL Draft. Is this a good thing? They do need to improve the defensive line. But my faith in their decisions is lost; picking hefty first rounders who produce on the field hasn’t been a strong point for the Chiefs.

In 2008 they grabbed Glenn Dorsey out of LSU. He was a big boy that disrupted some of the best offensive lines in the SEC, won the Nagurski Award for best defensive player, and won the Outland Trophy as college football’s best lineman. He really looked like a great pick. He was supposed to be one of the best players in the draft that year.

Dorsey was plugged in at defensive tackle that first year and moved to defensive end when the Chiefs shifted to a 3-4 defense in 2009. He plays well when on run defense, but rarely finds himself pulling down the quarterback like when he was in college.

The Chiefs needed a defensive end in 2009, so they selected Tyson Jackson with the third overall pick, another LSU lineman. I remember NFL Network’s Mike Mayock stating something like Jackson would be a solid player in the NFL but he was not worthy of the third overall pick. No draft guru gets all his predictions right, but Mayock hit the nail on the head when he voiced his opinion about Jackson. He hasn’t been third overall material, but there isn’t enough evidence to prove he’s a bust either.

But do the Chiefs really want to grab Dontari Poe? He’s considered a risk from what I’ve heard. His work ethic is questionable, but at the same time, he has the potential to be a good run blocker. Coming out of a small school like Memphis makes me wonder if his apparent skill comes from actual talent or from playing against lesser opponents.

 

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Present Day

The Chiefs have come a long way since a year and a half ago. They were a team that had a lot of holes to fill. Now they have some of the best depth in the NFL, and a defensive line of which other teams are envious.

When the Chiefs selected Dontari Poe in the 2012 draft, Tyson Jackson had yet to prove that he was worthy of the first round pick. The defensive line looked as if it still needed help; the 2011 defense ranked 26th in rush defense. Since

that day, Jackson has proven to be a valuable asset to the team in other ways than chasing down the quarterback. He is a run-stopper, a stopgap needed in a time where offenses try all sorts of trickery and deception. Now in 2013, Jackson’s main role has afforded other players, like Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, to go unprotected (or less protected) so that they can get into the backfield. Jackson still has room for improvement, but he’s proven his play can equal or better the offensive linemen of the NFL.

The expectations of Glenn Dorsey were always high. He came out of college as the most decorated lineman in LSU history, and was expected to do the same thing in the NFL. Many have stated that Dorsey wasn’t a good fit in Kansas City’s defense. He was good at stopping the run, anybody who watched him could easily tell you that, but he just wasn’t fifth overall material. Dorsey played his last season with the Chiefs last year before moving on to San Fransisco. His replacement was found during free agency, former New York Jet Mike DeVito.

Undrafted Mike DeVito earned a spot on the 2007 Jets, playing in only seven games and recording three tackles. He wouldn’t get his first start until the 2009 season. The Defensive Coordinator in New York was a guy named Bob Sutton, who must have taken a liking to the big guy because he brought DeVito with him when he became the DC in KC. People compared DeVito to Glenn Dorsey. The Chiefs have found a cheaper replacement on the right side of the line, and DeVito has proven himself stable against the run.

Ask any real fan of the Kansas City Chiefs what they think of the 2012 11th overall pick and they should smile. Dontari Poe is proving that he can clog holes and take on double teams as the starting nose tackle. His role is similar to Tyson Jackson’s, stop the run and occupy blockers so other players can make the play.

In fact that seems to be how the entire defensive line makes a living. They aren’t a sacking machine, they are a well trained wall that lets other players through only if they’re going offensively backwards. The Chiefs’ starting defensive line has combined for 6.5 sacks so far in 2013 (Poe, 4.5; Jackson, 2.0; DeVito, 0.0). It’s a system of thankless effort. By unselfishly occupying blockers, the linemen grant the linebackers the sexy stats.

Without the three starting linemen, Kansas City would most likely find themselves with a different record and a different vision for their team. The Chiefs are playing excellent defense. They are relying on it, because the offense — try as they may — can’t carry the team. Poe, Jackson, and DeVito are the unsung hero’s of the NFL’s 5th best defense.

I’ll make sure I think twice before questioning who the Chiefs draft.

 

 

Tags: Dontari Poe Kansas City Chiefs Mike DeVito Tyson Jackson

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