13 Days ‘Til Camp: D-Line Poses Issues


May 24, 2012; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe (92) and offensive lineman Rodney Hudson (61) scrimmage during organized team activities at the Kansas City Chiefs practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ed. Note: Every evening from now until July 26 – the day every Chiefs player is expected to report for training camp – we will countdown and discuss some of the more important questions for the 2013 Kansas City Chiefs. 


This would be the number of sacks the defensive line produced last season for the Chiefs, down from the whopping 7.5 KC defensive linemen had in 2011. Since Jared Allen was traded to the Minnesota Vikings after the 2007 season, the Chiefs have averaged about 1/2 a sack per game from their defensive linemen.

One-half of a sack.

Take out Wallace Gilberry‘s 14 sacks with the Chiefs from 2009-2011 and … well, we don’t want to completely horrify you.

Getting a pass rush from the Chiefs defensive line has been next to non-existent over the last five seasons even thought the organization has pumped high first round draft picks into the unit. Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson were each selected with top five picks, and Dontari Poe was the 11th overall selection in 2012. But none of them have produced much of a pass rush since their arrival, and Dorsey is already gone after bolting for the 49ers over the offseason.

While there is still promise in Poe, there is little else along the defensive line that suggests the pass rush from the linemen is going to improve. Mike DeVito is the only notable signing over the offseason, but he has just 2.5 career sacks in six seasons in the NFL. For those who think the new system will help, DeVito is coming from new Chiefs’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s defense in New York.

John Dorsey took a flyer on Mike Catapano in the draft but nothing else was done to help the defensive line.

So what is to be expected of the Chiefs defensive line?

Jackson, who took a voluntary multi-million dollar pay cut in order to stay on the roster, is back as the Chiefs left end with DeVito replacing Dorsey at right end. The two have combined to sack the quarterback 7.5 times in 10 NFL seasons, but both Jackson and DeVito have been graded highly by Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders for their ability to stop the run.

If there is hope, it is in the form of Poe.

After a slow start to the season where he recorded just 16 tackles, a pass defended, and a stuff, Poe started to show improvement and confidence in the second half of the season. In the final seven weeks of the season, Poe recorded 22 tackles, two stuffs, and three passes defended. While the stats are not booming, Poe was creating more havoc in the back field, and was doing an excellent job occupying blockers in the run game.

From the Sporting News:

"Rookie defensive tackle Dontari Poe … forced the Bengals offense off the field on their first possession, first by pushing guard Clint Boling backward and knocking down a pass. Poe on the next play used a swim move to beat the other guard, Kevin Zeitler, and forced quarterback Andy Dalton to hurry his throw, which went incomplete.…in searching for reasons to believe next year might be better, they can point occasionally, if not consistently, to Poe."

And NFL.com:

"Last year’s first-round pick got better late in the season and started making some tackles. If he can occupy blockers while occasionally making opponents pay for single-teaming him, people might be talking about the Chiefs’defense instead of Reid, Smith and their offensive brethren. Poe turned some heads at practice when he tipped a pass, caught it and took it to the house."

So there is hope, at least. But hope does not equal future production.

If the Chiefs really are going to make the leap from worst to first, they will need Poe to step up on the defensive line and start producing at the level his skill set suggests he can produce. If not, then expect another black hole on the defensive line when it comes to rushing the quarterback.