Chief Concerns: Mike Settle (@ChiefConcernsMS)
You should’ve seen my reaction the night of April 26th, 2012. I was crushed that Scott Pioli had in my mind taken yet another “bust” to add to his long list of draft day mishaps. Dontari Poe? A defensive tackle that couldn’t even make first team Conference USA was selected with the 11th overall pick to be our nose tackle when just a year earlier the Chiefs could’ve taken Phil Taylor instead of Jon Baldwin. It’s funny how things turn out.
Poe, who just turned 23 on Sunday, within a year has become a name we’re starting to look up to. A potential Haloti Ngata style defensive lineman that can play all three downs and get after the quarterback as well as stuff the running game.
I don’t expect a Pro Brow in just his 2nd year in the league, but he’s showing signs of becoming one very quickly.
The importance of his presence could have a bigger impact on this defense than any other position across the board. Just how impactful is a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense?
“If you can move a nose tackle, you can move a 3-4 defense” says Warren Sapp, a man who’s played multiple positions across the defensive line.
When Dontari Poe can create a double team and force a center, and a guard to come inside a formation, this allows the inside pressure to force a running play back outside, and meet, you guessed it, Tamba Hali or Justin Houston.
This is called a “spill” technique. The spill technique is typically most common with teams that run a 4-3 defense, but this can be used in all facets of football.
In Romeo Crennel’s two gap system, Poe was forced to be slightly hesitant at the snap of the ball, forced to read the offensive play and shed his block to the side of the play. Now with Bob Sutton, although 0-technique looks are still incorporated, Poe will be 1-gapping more often than not, and being able to use his athleticism to knife through the offensive line and make a play in the backfield.
Prime example of Dontari Poe: Play six of San Francisco’s offense Friday night. Dontari Poe lines up as a zero technique, but at the beginning of the play, attacks the A-gap, just to the right of Center, Jonathan Goodwin. Goodwin takes the assignment, but guess what, guard Mike Iupati follows him over, leaving a giant hole through the A-gap. The double team on Poe allows Akeem Jordan to fly up the field unblocked to register a sack on Colt McCoy.
Now what happens when you attempt to block Dontari Poe with one man?
It’s 3rd and 7. The 49ers are on their own 11 yard line. Poe is lined up in the 1-technique which means he’s between the center and guard. At the snap, Iupati overreaches on his block attempt, and Poe quickly sheds to the inside beating his man and forcing halfback LaMichael James to come up and make a block attempt. The inside pressure created by Poe would not allow quarterback Scott Tolzien to step up into the pocket and throw downfield. He’s instead forced to make an errant pass behind his intended receiver which was nearly intercepted by Dunta Robinson.
As you can see, having a versatile and powerful nose tackle can have a huge impact on the outcome of each play.
Poe hasn’t even begun to touch the potential of what he can become three years from now. But he’s catching on fast, and the thought of “It takes three years for a defensive lineman to develop” will be thrown out the window starting now, because he’s ready to make a splash in 2013, not 2015.