Dontari Poe to NFL: You're on Notice
"Dontari Poe had a poor rookie year."
I lost track of the number of times I read that sentence (or a very similar one) over the course of this summer. National columnists (mostly copying one another) repeated all the same themes: that Poe struggled, he needed work, was too raw, etc.
This wouldn't have bothered me if it had been, you know, true. All someone had to do was go back and watch the film to see that Poe actually had a decent rookie year. He wasn't all world, but he wasn't the anchor so many were making him out to be. Naturally, trying to share this information got me (and other like-minded individuals) labeled a homer, a Kool-Aid drinkers, a sketchy individual worthy of mockery. It was a tad infuriating.
But I endured. Because I knew that Poe had the size/speed/strength combination to do great things. I knew that with our new scheme (featuring a lot more attacking and a lot less "hey, stand here and watch the gaps next to you") could pay huge dividends for him. And I knew that with a year of getting used to NFL offensive linemen (it's a tad bit of a jump from Memphis to the big leagues), Poe was poised to do something big. I crossed my fingers and prayed I wasn't wrong.
Then Sunday, Poe sent a message to every offensive coordinator in the league. That message being:
"Be ready to double team me every play. Every. Single. Play."
Poe went into Week 1 with everyone saying, "well, maybe he'll work out." 1.5 sacks (or 2, if you don't want to give Eric Berry his half of a sack), a deflected pass, several QB hits/pressures, and 3 tackles in which he absolutely halted the runner later ("stops" under PFF's definition) later... The dialogue changed to "holy crap."
The numbers are impressive. His impact was clear to anyone watching the game. But just how well did he play from snap to snap? Only one way to find out... go back and review the film. What was Poe doing right? Were there any issues that need addressing? How many times did Tyson Jackson moon us? Only by re-watching every snap multiple times will I be able to answer these very important questions.
I agonized over exactly how to do this (mostly because I'm strange like that). Do I break down every single snap? Do I re-watch all the snaps and give impressions on various aspects of Poe's game when I'm done? Or do I just start watching and write notes as I go? After way, way more thought than the decision merited, I'm going with the 3rd option. These notes will be based on re-watching of various snaps. At times I'll describe the play, at times I won't. Let's do this!
-The very first play of the game, Poe is lined up at LDE instead of NT. He delivers a PUNCH to the RG that literally throws the man backward. Of course, Gabbert got rid of the ball in roughly .35 seconds, so it didn't even result in a pressure. But it was cool to see all the same.
-I just have to say (even though it's got nothing to do with Poe) that my heart SANK after that blocked punt. Absolute sank. I got that familiar "here we go" feeling. I've rarely been more happy to be wrong.
-Man, on one of Poe's "stops" he just rode the center to his left (the run was going right), giving absolutely zero ground, then just disengaged when he saw MJD coming his way. A G attempted to engage and Poe just casually shoves him aside and lays a nice hit to prevent any gain. Too big, too strong.
-Want to know why Just Houston went absolutely free at Gabbert on his first sack? A big part of it was because the RT chose to block a rushing Tjax, because the RG couldn't do it. Why? Because he was busy helping the C double team Poe. This is what happens when you've got a guy who demands a double team on the interior. Pass rushers get a straight line to the QB.
-Man, Poe almost ran down a screen on a 3rd and 23. He missed the tackle, but because of him the runner had to stop completely, allowing the rest of the defense to catch up (play ended well short of the 1st down). His speed is remarkable for a guy his size.
-That batted pass was just a great heads up play by the 2nd year player. He saw it was a quick throw, disengaged, timed his jump correctly, and swatted the pass out of the air. Led to a punt.
-From what I'm seeing on running plays, Poe's awareness has drastically improved. He recognizes where the runner is going and can disengage from a blocker seemingly at will. Also, when Poe hits runners they are stopped cold.
-Got too aggressive and overpursued on a 3rd down conversion (screen pass). Had Poe kept more control as he pursued, he would've been able to help Dunta Robinson make the tackle prior to the 1st down marker.
-When JAC's center is matched up against Poe individually on pass protection, Poe just MOVES him backward. This happens time after time. I looked it up, and the Jags C is listed at a shade over 290 pounds. It's not even fair.
-Poe moving a double team backward. This is huge. I'd never seen him manage that before. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine the chaos Poe can cause if he's able to beat double teams even half the time. Are you smiling? I’m smiling.
-Re-watching this game it's easy to see why MJD averaged 3 yards a carry. It's not just Poe. The entire defensive is giving absolutely zero ground to the Jaguars' offensive line. There's nowhere to go for MJD.
-You can see Poe is a little fatigued near the end of the 1st half. His handfighting looks a little like he's thinking "let's just get this over with so I can sit in an air-conditioned locker room for a little while." I can't really blame the guy. He's been out there almost every snap and has been the most consistently double teamed player on the DL.
-Poe's sack to end the 1st half is a great example as to why he could have a devastating impact on offenses this year. We only rushed 3 (Catapano, Poe, Hali). The LG was looking to help against Hali, and the RG was looking to help on Catapano initially. That leaves Poe alone with the C. Not even a contest. Poe gets leverage and walks him backward (more like runs him backward), and by the time the RG tries to help Poe is in Gabbert's lap and it's too late. Getting pressure when only rushing 3 is how you destroy offenses.
-Poe draws a triple team, with all 3 interior linemen focusing on him. That's how you know you're causing problems for the offense.
-Even when Poe gets hit HARD by a double team (knocking him backward a yard initially), he recovers, sets his feet, and drives in the direction of the ball. The man is strong.
-Poe's half-sack (that came out weird) was mostly the result of the rest of the D chasing Gabbert toward him. Still did a good job disengaging when Gabbert got close. He's too quick for OL when he disengages, they can't keep their hands on him.
-If it weren't for Houston being a beast, Poe would've had another sack. Houston gets there about .1 second before Poe. It's a really well done stunt where Tjax SLAMS into the C and RG and forces them to engage, then Poe just circles around and sprints toward Gabbert.
-On Akeem Jordan's TFL against Denard Robinson, guess why he was able to shoot through the line untouched. Yep, Poe taking on a double team. These are the plays that don't collect stats, but are crucial for team success.
-Several run plays in a row where Poe has a shot at making the play but doesn't disengage quickly enough. This was right after Tamba's pick-6, so there's a chance fatigue was in play here.
-Well, maybe it wasn't fatigue. Because a couple plays later, Poe stuffs MJD.
If you've read this far, you love the Chiefs way too much. That said, the general impression I got of Poe watching the game initially were that he was too big, too fast, and too strong for the Jags' OL. Re-watching, I wasn't disappointed. Poe was giving them problems pretty consistently. In fact, basically every play he WASN'T doubled he was winning his individual matchup.
His technique seems to have improved. He's not going sideways, he's keeping his head up, he's getting his hands inside the pads of the OL he's facing... he clearly learned a ton his rookie year. Combine that with his ridiculous physical gifts and you've got a guy who is tough to handle.
Now, Jacksonville isn't known for having an elite... well, anything. And that includes OL. So I'm sure there will be those who say this game means nothing. I disagree. This was a game where Poe dominated the line of scrimmage from start to finish. That means something. And don't think that the Cowboys coaches aren't watching tape right now saying, "man, what are we going to do about that man mountain they've got at NT?"
They've been put on notice. As has the rest of the NFL.
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