With free agency on the horizon, we take a look at one name Jon Robinson should be taking a long, hard look at: Dontari Poe.
When Mike Vrabel took the podium as the new head coach of the Tennessee Titans, there was an interesting term he used to describe his defense: front multiplicity, coverage consistency. Those words caught the attention of many. Vrabel only reaffirmed that notion with the hiring of briefly retired defensive coordinator Dean Pees. This coaching duo is set to turn this unit into an elite one, but need a few key pieces to come in and contribute.
If you’re going to run a multiple front defense, you need versatile defensive linemen who can line up in any gap and accomplish a number of different assignments. Jurrell Casey fits that mold perfectly. Casey came on early in his career in the 4-3 system. While his statistics may have taken a slight dip after the transition to a 3-4, he is still a disruptive player who is a threat to make a play in the backfield at any moment. But the same can’t be said for the other players at the position.
DaQuan Jones, who’s set to hit free agency, is a solid run-stuffer who wins with power and technique, but his lack of athleticism and hip flexibility is an obvious weakness. It would surprise me if Jones wasn’t brought back, but questions remain after he suffered a season-ending biceps injury.
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Then there are players like Sylvester Williams, David King, and Karl Klug, who are all different situational players. Those are solid pieces to have in your back pocket when you run as many different looks as this defense will in 2018, but this unit lacks a complementary player to Casey.
While he has yet to scratch the surface of his potential, Dontari Poe is someone who can fill that void. He’s a freak of nature athletically for someone who is 6-3, 350 pounds. That athleticism was on full display in the various ways Andy Reid used the big man on offense during his tenure in Kansas City.
This video is a great example of both his strengths and weaknesses as a defensive lineman. See how Poe stood straight up from the snap of the ball? Most defensive lineman will have already lost at that stage. But watch how he keeps his lightning quick feet moving while working the rip with his left arm, which enables him to get to Drew Brees for the sack. A combination of talented players around him, along with the right coaching staff, can make plays like this occur at a more constant rate.
He didn’t stuff the stat sheet in his one-year stint with the Atlanta Falcons, but he does still show the same promise he did when he was playing over 1,000 snaps per season and dominating centers for the Kansas City Chiefs. Nose guards aren’t supposed to record multiple sacks year in and year out, but has been able to do so in three out of six seasons.
Typically, the responsibility of these players is to eat up the center and guard to keep them off the linebackers, which essentially allows the backers to flow to the ball cleanly. Poe has the ability to do that and much more in the right fit.
What I love about the plays he did flash in were the many different ways he was able to get after the quarterback. He isn’t the player that you have to put in one specific spot for him to shine (I.E front multiplicity). In this video, you can see he does everything from throwing a dirty swim move on Travis Frederick (one of the best centers in football) to chasing down Michael Vick who had a slight angle on him. My favorite was how he threw former Titans guard Chance Warmack to the side like a little boy. These are just glimpses of the player he can be on every down.
In his previous stops, Dontari Poe has been surrounded with great edge players like Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Vic Beasley, and Adrian Clayborn (when he was facing a back-up tackle) but never had a complementary inside presence, such as Casey, to line up next to him. Having those pass rushers on the outside is great, but Poe’s position being right in the thick of the trenches still allows opposing offenses to focus more attention on him. Forcing interior offensive lineman to worry about a potential Casey/Poe duo, along with players like Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan on the outside, would cause a lot of trouble throughout the league.
GM Jon Robinson hired Vrabel due to his ability to get the most out of players. I’d be interested to see what he would be able to get out of the former Memphis Tiger if he were to don the two-tone blue next season.