One of the key reasons for the early success of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense is the improved play of Dontari Poe. KC Kingdom is going to direct the player spotlight this week on the big nose tackle to highlight what he is doing to contribute to the success of the Kansas Chiefs.
As a first pick out of Memphis in the 2012 NFL Draft, Dontari Poe received plenty of playing time with very few results. Last year, Poe played started all 16 games as a rookie but only recorded 28 solo tackles and 10 assists. He had no sacks, and only 4 passes defended.
The results have been much different this season. Already, just 7 games in, Poe has 22 solo tackles and has sacked the quarterback 4.5 times. With more than half the season to go, he has knocked down three passes, almost matching his season total in 2012.
The biggest difference in Poe’s play has been his ability to push his blockers back into the pocket somewhat, applying pressure to opposing to the quarterback from the middle of the field. This forces the quarterback to abandon the middle of the field and move into the arms of the pass rushers coming from the outside, namely Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
Poe is also doing a great job occupying blockers so defensive coordinator Bob Sutton can bring extra pass rushers from different directions, including right up the middle. While Poe has the attention of blockers in the middle of the field, the Chiefs have taken to sending middle linebacker Derrick Johnson up the middle into the pocket. Johnson has tallied some sacks in recent weeks, but much of his success has been due to Poe taking care of the blockers up front.
When not applying pressure on the quarterback up the middle, Poe has also teamed up with teammate Tyson Jackson to sniff out and stuff opposing running backs. The Chiefs rank 20th in the league in rush defense, allowing 769 yards this season, and 110 yards a week. Running backs, though, have not had that much success.
Nearly a third of all rushing yards against the Chiefs have been amassed by opposing quarterbacks, mostly from scrambles as they try to avoid the relentless pass rush. Quarterbacks have accounted for 246 yards against the Chiefs.
Kansas City has only allowed 523 yards by running backs, or 75 yards a game. This includes the one game where a running back killed the Chiefs – LeSean McCoy picked up 158 yards on the ground for Philadelphia in week three. Outside of that game, running backs have only gained 365 yards on the ground in six outings, only 61 yards a game.
Poe is a big part of this. The defensive line is not giving up much ground at all. Poe is taking away of the middle of the football and snuffing out running games.
This week, as the Chiefs face off against the Cleveland Browns, keep a close eye of number 92 in the middle. Watch how he pushes his blockers back on pass plays, and how he occupies blockers, freeing up other pass rushers during blitzes. See how he sheds blocks to stop runs up the middle, and how he can pursue run plays to the outside.
Dontari Poe is playing great this year at defensive tackle. Not only is he seeing individual success with his personal stats, but his teammates are having great success, due in large part, to the fact Poe is doing his job very well.
Poe deserves the player spotlight this week. Hopefully his efforts will translate into an 8-0 record for the Kansas City Chiefs.