Patience, time key for Chiefs rookie Poe

Patience, time key for Chiefs rookie Poe

Published Aug. 13, 2012 4:46 p.m. ET

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Casey Hampton started 11 games as
a rookie with Pittsburgh in 2001. Vince Wilfork started six games as a rookie
with New England in 2004. B.J. Raji made only one start with Green Bay in 2009.


To borrow a phrase from the baseball side of town, it’s a process.


“You know, with anything, it takes a while to know,” Kansas City Chiefs nose
tackle Anthony Toribio told when asked about his rookie linemate
Dontari Poe. “He’s doing a tremendous job picking it up for it being his first
time in a 3-4 (scheme). He’s a great guy, a monster guy. It’ll be a matter of
time before you see him out there dominating.”


Great guy. Monster guy. A matter of time.


For Poe, the 346-pound lug out of Memphis whom the Chiefs snatched with the
11th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the main theme is to play now, dominate later.


Much, much later.

Great guy. Monster guy. A matter of time.

On Friday, Poe took the field for the first time at Arrowhead Stadium, playing
primarily in the second and third quarters of the Chiefs’ 27-17 win over
Arizona. The results were mixed ... or about what’s expected of a 21-year-old
rookie playing in his first pro contest.


On one hand, he helped collapse the pocket during a Justin Houston sack late in
the first quarter. Poe’s hands were always active, even if they were too often
tangled with his particular dance partner. Yet, Poe was almost always the last
man off the line whenever the ball was snapped. He was run out of some plays
and, worse, was reportedly pancaked at least three times by a collection of
guys who may or may not make the Cardinals’ regular-season roster.


“It was fun. It wasn’t easy,” Poe said after the game. “Got a long way to go.”


Great guy. Monster guy. A matter of time.


For weeks, coach Romeo Crennel had warned of the rough edges in Poe’s game,
that it might take a while for another corner to be turned. Crennel’s comment
was considered coach-speak.


But after the rookie’s first preseason game, it was obvious Crennel was on
target. Even the best pluggers, the elite nose tackles, in today’s 3-4 sets
need a healthy dose of seasoning before they’re ripe for the trenches. In
college, Poe was rotated up and down the line with the Tigers.


“He’s trying to learn to do the things,“the way that we want them done,” Crennel
said on Monday.


That might explain Poe’s hesitation, the slight hitch that seemed to stifle the
kid’s prodigious athletic gifts. He’s thinking rather than recognizing. In the
time it takes to do the former, even a middling NFL blocker can lock an
opponent’s tail up and erase him from the play. That’s exactly what Arizona’s
line did, more often than not, to Poe.


Poe played most, if not all, of the middle two quarters and failed to register
a defensive statistic, which isn’t that big of a deal for a nose man doing spot
work. But this is: While the Memphis native was anchoring the line, the
Cardinals scored 10 points and accounted for 10 first downs. In the first and
fourth quarters, Arizona collected seven points and seven first downs.


Meanwhile, Toribio picked up a tackle for loss in the first quarter and
second-year nose Jerrell Powe bull-rushed his way to a sack late in the third.
During the stretch in between, Poe got the bulk of the snaps and was just kind
of — there. Thinking first, reacting second.


“In a 3-4, that would kind of mess you up,” Toribio explained. “You don’t want
to think too much. In a 3-4, you just want to react to everything.”


Poe will acclimate to the speed, the tempo, the reads. Eventually.


“He’s not there yet,” Crennel said.


This was just the first dress rehearsal, with three more to follow before it
really counts. It’s a long road. Long and winding.


“You don’t know what side it’s coming to, so you just always have to react and
trust your eyes,” Toribio said. “Once you start getting comfortable with that,
you’ll start picking it up really fast. That’s how you pick up the 3-4 scheme.”


Great guy. Monster guy. A matter of time. Time and patience.


You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at