Chiefs' Dontari Poe vs. Panthers: A progress report

Kyle Rivas Getty Images Sport

The Chiefs rookie first round pick is holding his own.

I don't want to waste a lot of time/energy/words/parentheses here. These are a lot of work and take up a lot of words. So let's get right down to it:.

For those new to AP, every now and then, rather than just re-watching the Chiefs game once, I'll do it several times and focus, snap by snap, on a single player. I'll then write a post about it because I'm an idiot who loves writing about the Chiefs way, way, way too much. I call these "breakdowns." Not because I'm a great football mind, but because I'm too lazy to think of another term.

Today: Dontari Poe vs. the Panthers. Maybe I'll do every snap. maybe just the first half. let's see how this goes.


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We all know Poe. Controversial pick. Man-mountain. Possessor of unworldly athleticism for a guy his size. Kisser of Roger Goodell. Chiefs starting NT. Subject of much debate. It seems to be the consensus around AP that he's doing pretty well his rookie year. So... about time we take a detailed look, right? How is the rook coming along? There is really no other way than just watching, snap by snap, and seeing how he does over the course of a game. Let's get started.

(Quick note. I will sometimes describe the play in detail. Other times I will not. As I said, these are long. My main focus will not be whether a play gained yards or was blown up in the backfield, but what Poe did in his individual matchups. Also, I'll try to throw in a few jokes, but I make no promises as to whether they'll be funny. These types of posts are pretty dry for those who aren't as crazy as I am. You've been warned)

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Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Snap 1- Shotgun. Poe at nose. Shoves C back until he's about a yard in front of Newton, but not soon enough as Newton releases relatively quickly. LG tried to help as C was getting completely manhandled, but Newton's release kept him from feeling the pressure too much. It was nice to see him physically dominate the guy to start off.

Snap 2- Shotgun again. Handoff, Poe one-on-one with RG. Stands him up and doesn't move backward, but does not get more than an arm on Williams as Williams runs for a gain of 5 through the gap between C and RG. Kinda/sorta helps with the tackle. Good news is he doesn't move an inch and keeps his head up (proper 2-gapping). Bad news is he doesn't recognize the run quickly enough and could have stopped it for a much shorter gain.

Snap 3- Single back, Newton under C. Poe lined up between LG and C. One-on-one against LG on a run to the right. Does a good job holding ground and moving towards his left. Minimal gain as TJax is doing TJax stuff right where the runner goes.

Snap 4- I-formation. Poe at NT directly above C. Tolbert run up the gut for a first down. Poe swallows a double team and stands firm but the RDE does not hold his ground nearly as well. Could've been a big stop there.

Snap 5- Poe at NT, lined up between C and LG. Pass play, and Poe draws THREE FREAKING BLOCKERS. He actually moves back the first two a couple yards before the third engages and helps them stonewall him. Unfortunately, we're only rushing 2 other guys and don't capitalize. Incomplete pass as Javier Arenas (Javy!!!!) makes a nice play on the ball.

(Probably the most impressive play so far. The dude is a BULL, and he genuinely drew that extra blocker. Had we been sending a 4th guy Newton would've had a problem)

Snap 6- Shotgun. Poe line up between C and LG. Doesn't do much at all. This was the huge play to their TE, and Poe's play here demonstrates my problem with 2-gapping. He's clearly focused on trying to 2-gap and as a result doesn't have any forward "push." In the second it takes him to recognize "pass," the OL has time to really steel himself and make sure Poe doesn't get a great push. Plus, that extra second is CRITICAL in the NFL. I really, really, want to see him asked to attack more often.

Snap 7- Shotgun, Poe at NT directly over C. VERY quick pass attempt for WR screen (dropped), but I see here again why I want to see Poe "attacking." He just SLAMS into the C and moves him backward. There is no reason why he couldn't do this every single play. He's way too much for the C to handle alone

Snap 8- Shotgun. Poe lined up across from LG. A little slow getting off the line and Tolbert runs for about 6 right where Poe should've been able to slow him down. Bad play IMO

Snap 9- Shotgun again. Poe lined up across from LG. He and TJax go old-school and just PUSH towards Newton. No pass rushing "moves," nothing fancy. Just PUSH. And they make progress as Newton throws quickly to avoid an issue. THAT'S what I want to see. TJax and Poe have a major strength advantage. They need to use it every time they're rushing the passer.

Snap 10- Poe at NT, right above C. One-on-one with C, holds ground, Williams runs at him, very little gained. Not dominant at all, but did the job, preventing any hole from opening.

Snap 11- Shotgun. Poe at NT right above C. This is the play Newton was sacked, and Poe was a big part of it. He shoved the C back and forced help from the RG. Still continued to move (albeit more slowly) towards Newton, who saw the pocket being crushed around him and tried to run. Nowhere to go. T-Jax got the sack, but Poe was right there with him.

Snap 12- Shotgun, Poe lined up over C as our only actual DL. C and RG double team, he doesn't get very far. However, something crucial to note: the plan was VERY clearly to double him right at the snap. Apparently Newton was tired of having his C's rear end in his face. This is CRUCIAL. For those of you bad at math, if 2 OL are blocking Poe, that leaves 3 OL to contend with our (likely) 3 other rushers, two of whom are almost impossible to block one-on-one. If Poe becomes a guy that forces this C/RG double, Houston/Hali will become even more of a nightmare of opposing QB's.

Snap 13- After a few snaps taking a breather, he's back in for a WR screen. Doesn't have long to do much of anything, and the LG barely even pretends to take him on, as the screen is away from Poe.

Snap 14- The TD pass to Steve Smith. Poe doesn't do much here except command another double team (again, pretty clearly assigned right off the snap). Gets very little penetration, but does get a hand up at the correct time. Still, little effect, TD Panthers.

Snap 15- Poe at NT, over C. Run to left, Poe and others do great job giving no openings, but fail to prevent the cutback lane for about 5. Better discipline is required.

Snap 16- Another (maybe) discipline lapse here. Poe is lined up between LG and C and decides to try and shoot a gap (he could well have been told to do so, we'll never know). The RB goes through the vacated gap, gain of 9. He shows really, really impressive speed trying to burst through, but that doesn't mean squat when you're in the wrong gap.

Snap 17- Poe at NT over C. QB run. Poe 2-gaps nicely for a moment, then loses his feet. Cam was busy being Cam Newton elsewhere, so it made little difference, but you GOTTA KEEP YOUR FEET MAN!

Snap 18- Poe at NT over C. Shotgun. After a vicious first shot by the C, Poe recovers and shoves him backward about 4 yards. Throw gets out, but that pocket was a'shrinking...

Snap 19- Poe lined up over C. Pass play, Poe draws a TRIPLE TEAM initially but the third guy abandons it when TJax uses that bull rush of his to just MOVE the RT towards Newton. Houston and Hali are doing all kinds of crazy things, and the pocket collapses. Newton, being Newton, vanishes into thin air and appears again diving forward for a gain of 3. Any other QB in the NFL besides maybe RG3 and that's a sack for SOMEONE. Have I said how valuable it is to have a big guy eating blockers?

Snap 20- Quick out to WR. I'm not even sure the OL and DL had engaged when the throw was made.

Snap 21- Poe lined up over LG. Fails to prevent cutback lane, gain of 14. This needs to be worked on. You can't over-commit when an NFL RB is going left or right, Dontari. Those guys will make you pay every time.

Snap 22- Shotgun, Poe lined up across from LG. Engages LG, but not much else. Meh.

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Peter Aiken Getty Images Sport

Snap 23- Another quick out that's thrown before the OL/DL can do much of anything.

Snap 24- Shotgun. Poe lined up between C and LG. Blows by LG (who attempts to hold to no avail) and helps absolutely collapse the pocket while laying a hit on Newton. Newton gets it out on time and makes a great throw downfield which is (fortunately) dropped.

Snap 25- Poe at NT over C. Again walks the C back towards Newton, collapsing the pocket. It's slower this time, but still fast enough that it's GOTTA be uncomfortable for Newton (who checks down).

Snap 26- Major form fail here, as Poe goes down on his knees in a failed attempt to get "super-low" (apparently). Dude... seriously?

Snap 27- Shotgun. Poe right over C. QB run up the gut for a couple yards. Poe forced a double, but it's unclear whether he'd have made the play regardless.

Snap 28- Shotgun. Poe ends up alone vs the C, who holds him up for a second. Then Poe's strength/athleticism begin to win the day and he starts to force his way around the C to the right, towards Newton. Throw is made well before he gets there though.

Snap 29- Shotgun. Poe between C and LG. Poe ends up doubled by LT and LG on a read option play, does pretty well, and is "Newton'd" along with the rest of our D.

Snap 30- Poe is between C and LG. Run left. Poe draws double, but fails to move his blockers far enough to form a "wall" and the runner gets through as the LB fails to hit the gap quickly enough (MAN you can tell when DJ isn't out there anymore).

Snap 31- Poe at NT over C. Run looks to go up the gut, and there is absolutely nothing there. Poe stands up C and leaves no gap open. Runner bounces outside to the right for a few yards. Really nice play there.

Snap 32- Poe over C. pass play, Poe draws double team and doesn't move it at all. No one takes advantage of an occupied blocker and Newton has enough time to take a dump back there (but doesn't do so for obvious reasons).

Snap 33- Shotgun, Poe over C. Another read option. there is literally nowhere to go up the middle, but Newton does Newton stuff and goes around the left side. You can see why Newton chose to keep the ball there, as the RB had zero holes to run through. Stupid Cam Newton...

Snap 34- Pass play. Does nothing of note. Clearly looking to 2-gap at the beginning.

Snap 35- TD on quick slant for Panthers. Poe over C, is moving him back, but not quickly enough to impact such a "fast" play.

Snap 36- Poe over C. Run play to the left. Poe does a phenomenal job pushing the C back and getting penetration, forcing the back to sprint horizontally to escape. Unfortunately, there is not good contain to on the right side of the D, and it's a decent gain. A REALLY good individual play by Poe goes unrewarded.

Snap 37- Poe over C. Run up the guy, maybe a yard or two there. Nice job by Poe and the DL.

Snap 38- Poe over C. Pass play. Poe beats the C to the left and forces the RG to help, Newton gets the throw out to Tolbert (really wishing we'd have gotten him over Hillis at this point).

Snap 39- Houston's sack of Newton. Shotgun, Poe between C and RG. Wanna know what's really unnoticed the first time you watch this? Part of the reason Houston gets away and gets his sack is the RG chooses to help the C double Poe initially, then goes to Houston, then looks to Poe, then commits to Houston (making a diving attempt at a block that Houston avoids because Justin Houston does not care about such things). A small assist for Poe, but an assist nonetheless. The fact that he'd been manhandling the C for much of the day helped contribute to this sack, as the RG was forced to divide his attention.

Snap 40- Read option away from Poe. Nothing worth noting.

Snap 41- Shotgun. Pass play. Poe doesn't really do much other than shove the C a few times, and is very clearly focusing on "contain" rather than "rush" (apparently they'd had enough of Newton doing Newton things). TJax is doing the same and gets a paw on the pass.

Snap 42- Shotgun. Poe between C and LG. Screen play, and the whole defense reads it perfectly including Poe, not getting sucked towards Newton. That's one advantage to playing for contain. Screens aren't nearly as effective. Someone should really send that memo to the Panthers coach.

Snap 43- Newton's escape of Hali's sack. Poe very effectively commands a C/LG double team on this play, which as a direct result leaves Hali alone against the LT (who is of course destroyed). Newton manages to shrug off Hali and escape (MAN that guy is a freak), which is a shame.

Snap 44- Big 3rd and 4 pass play. Poe is above C. He proceeds to shove him backward and is in Newtons lap in roughly 1.5 seconds, making the hit and throwing Newton to the ground as Newton releases a "throw at the ground as I'm getting hit because oh-my-god-this-guy's-the-size-of-a-truck" pass. Awesome play. Have I said that the C is totally physically outmatched here? I feel like I've said it...

The remaining snaps were on the Panther's last, desperate, heave the ball in the air drive. Not a lot to report there, although Poe DID help create some pressure on that last throw.

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John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Overall analysis

What to take from this, other than the fact that it's now 2 a.m. and I clearly care way too much about this team? Well, if I were to judge based on this game (which is silly, but since it's the one game I've watched every snap of his 2-3 times), I'd say...

1) Poe's technique has improved. I saw a couple of plays where he tried too hard to get low and went down on one knee, but other than that he was good with it. Didn't turn sideways at all that I saw, which is huge (stares hard at Jerrell Powe). He's still coming along as a 2-gap player, and looks to be susceptible to cutbacks. For a guy touted to be absolutely and completely raw, though, I was really impressed.

2) Poe cannot be handled by an individual C. Granted, the Panthers aren't sporting a top three guy, but the physical domination Poe exhibited was extremely impressive. I love, love, love seeing him lined up directly over the C, because that usually meant he was going to shove the guy a couple yards backward if no one came to help.

3) There is indeed a domino effect when your NT is dominating the other team's C. Poe drew a lot of attention throughout the game, and it only increased as the game went along. Especially on passing downs. There were several times you could see Hali or Houston alone against a T because Poe was occupying whatever G was on that side along with the C.

4) If it's true that Poe was a terribly green prospect with a "long ways to go" before he reaches his potential, the sky is the limit. The man already draws double teams on virtually every passing down and often on running plays. His ability to impose his will on an NFL offensive lineman is something to marvel at. If he even goes up just one more "level" (whatever that means) he'll be worth the pick at #11.

Ways to spend the hours between midnight and 2 in the morning:

Overrated: Studying

Underrated: Re-watching a Chiefs win

Just Right- Time with the wife

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