So, you’ve got yourself a new Dontari Poe?
By drafting Dontari Poe you’ve just added a freakish talent to the middle of your defensive line. He isn’t a finished product yet but if he reaches his ceiling, you could find yourself with a Haloti Ngata, Albert Haynesworth or Sam Adams type player. If he doesn’t reach his potential you might find yourself with a Jimmy Kennedy, Alan Branch or Ryan Pickett type player; a guy who becomes a good run stopper in time but certainly isn’t worth a top pick. Boom or bust but you can certainly see the appeal.
More after the jump…
But first, a quick recap of the wide nine scheme:
They focus on the pass rush but there is a specific part I want to focus on:
“…Because what the wide nine does; look how much space, Adam, it creates between the defensive end and the tackle.”
Now, in this instance Greg is talking about the space between Trent Cole and the offensive tackle but I want to focus on the space between Trent Cole and Derek Landri. That is a lot of space, I’d estimate there is about 5 yards between the two. In the video Greg Cossel and Adam Caplan talk about how this affects the pass rush but they don’t note that this creates natural running lanes and that unless the guy playing the 1 technique (between the center and guard) demands a double team, either the guard or center can move to the second level and block a linebacker, creating further running room.
How do you stop that? Tennessee found a solution and it’s name was Albert Haynesworth. Big Al has gotten some really bad press lately (and deservedly so) but lets not forget that three, four years ago he was the most dominant interior force in the NFL. If you tried to block him with one man he would eat him up and make the stop. You absolutely had to double-team him.
But getting a big, plodding run stuffer just isn’t Jim Washburn’s style. He’s not going to waste snaps on someone who isn’t going to get to the pass rusher. He wants his defensive tackles to be “guard killers”. As much as he wants his ends flying up field and around the corner, he wants those defensive tackles attacking the guards and collapsing the pocket.
Finding a guy who can do both things is rare. Finding a guy who can consistently demand double teams (and hold double teams) while also being able to create pressure on passing downs is a tough gig because they’re hard to find. Look around the NFL, how many of these guys do you see? Haloti Ngata, Justin Smith, Kevin Williams and JJ Watt? That’s about it.
So, you can imagine how excited Jim Washburn is about Dontari Poe, a 6’4” and 346 pound defensive tackle with 4.8 speed and a 1.7 ten yard split. Poe is the rare player who has the size and strength to be an impact run defender while also being nimble enough to be an impact pass rusher. When Warren Sapp says “I see a little bit of me in him” about a 346 pound player, you know he’s a F-R-E-A-K, freak.
But if he’s such a freak, how do you explain his production?
Well, I hate to make excuses but… He played at Memphis. MEMPHIS. Can you name anyone else that plays at that school? That team won 5 games in the three years Poe was there. FIVE. That should give you some indication of the supporting cast the Poe was playing with.
Teams were doubling him. Teams were running away from him. He had nobody else on his defensive line to help him out. Teams were able to get rid of the ball because their pass defense was horrible. He wasn’t coming off the field. And often times when he would get penetration the runner would just cutback and run away from him without consequence. And he played in a conference with a lot of spread offenses where the QB doesn’t hold onto the ball very long.
In the NFL where he has players who are at least competent, runners won’t be able to redirect as much, which will lead to more tackles, and more tackles for a loss. He’ll have defensive ends that force quarterbacks to step up into the pocket where Poe can get to them more easily. He’ll face less double teams in both the passing game and running game. And in the NFL quarterbacks take longer drops so he’ll have more time to actually get to the QB.
Obviously Poe wasn’t perfect but it’s unfair to say “He must suck because his production sucks at Memphis”. Hell, Michael Brockers didn’t produce any better and he played at LSU with Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo, Eric Reid, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu. If you want to get the full picture, you have to watch him play.
So, here we go; @phillyjimmy (follow him) was kind enough to upload an entire game to youtube. I’ll show you exactly why Dontari Poe is so enticing.
Right here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. When is the last time you saw a defensive tackle, let alone a 350 pound defensive tackle, move like that? He does a little stutter step to the left and then he just blows by the guard when he over extends. And Poe is so quick that he’s barely touched by the Tulane player. But because no one else on Memphis even gets off their block the runner is able to redirect and evade Dontari Poe. This is a positive play for Poe that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
In this play, Poe takes on a double team and clogs up the middle of the defense. That’s exactly what you want from a big guy, for them to hold their ground in the run game but it doesn’t have any effect because no one on Memphis can make a play. You see the crowd that builds up around Poe because no one can move him; he causes a traffic jam.
Here you see Poe pass rushing. Too often you’ll see him dancing when he rushes the passer, he moves laterally far too much instead of moving towards the QB. But in this instance, he flashes what he can do. He fires off the ball low and just drives through a double team that frees up his defensive end on the loop around. Takes both blockers right in front of the QB.
Watch him on this play. It’s a little bubble screen but you see Dontari Poe pursue down field. This is something you’ll notice with Poe, his effort in pursuit is very good for a 350 pound NT.
And it’s something that former Football Outsiders and current Yahoo Shutdown Corner writer, Doug Farrar noticed too saying of Poe “Excellent motor and second effort, especially for his size — Poe is generally looking to make a play or help wrap up even after he’s chipped or otherwise blocked out. [He’s] startlingly quick at getting up off the ground and heading to the ballcarrier.”
Once again you see Dontari Poe get up field and bit and string the play wide. Another good play from Poe that won’t show up on the stat sheet.
Exactly what you want to see. He takes on the double team, stays low, drives his legs, splits the double team, wraps up the runner and drives him backwards. These are the sort of plays that make Poe the prospect he is.
Big men are not supposed to be able to move like that. They’re not. The dexterity and movement ability for such a big man is incredible. He spins right past his blocker and forces the QB to get rid of the ball.
Memphis played Dontari Poe all over their line, he played the 1, 3 and 5 techniques. Surely Jim Washburn likes this as well because the more ways you can get to the passer, the better. He lines up at defensive end on this play and he uses a spin move to beat an offensive tackle. Again, big men aren’t supposed to move that way.
Watch the next play as well, he plays LE on this play and he beats the RT to the corner.
If you watch all of his games (there are 2 on ESPN 3 last I checked and there are a couple videos on YouTube) you’ll see more of the same stuff that you saw in this game.
Having watched Dontari Poe, I’ll give you my scouting report:
Pros: EXTREMELY strong … Great girth … Huge lower body … Good height … Very quick off the snap and capable of wreaking havoc up field … Movement ability and dexterity is off the charts for a man of his size … Extremely versatile, you could project him as a 3-4 DE, 3-4 NT, 1 technique, 3 technique and he even played DE snaps at Memphis … He has incredible lateral quickness … Anchors well and consistently shows the ability to hold the point at the line of scrimmage … Flashes the ability to take on and beat double teams at times … Hard working player who dedicated himself in the weight room … Good motor and activity level for a player so huge … Humble guy, not superstar diva type at this point (moving ahead who really knows) … Talent level is through the roof, potential all-pro if he develops right
Negatives: Doesn’t seem to grasp how huge and powerful he is, he doesn’t explode into blockers … He needs to play more decisively and with clearer intentions … Pass rush is too circular, he dances too much instead of just taking a straight line to the passer, it limits his effectiveness … Plays out of control, almost as if he was just freestyling on the field … Doesn’t really seem to have any strategy as a pass rusher he just does whatever he wants, he plays unbalanced and it allows him to be controlled by smaller, weaker players … Doesn’t consistently locate the runner … Doesn’t use his hands well … Plays too high and out of control, exposes his sides and chest … Short arms … Extremely raw
You can definitely see why Jim Washburn wants this guy and you can definitely see where Jim Washburn would make Dontari Poe better.
Dontari Poe dances around and plays without a purpose -> Jim Washburn is a mean, screaming maniac who would quickly give Poe a purpose and let him know about it.
Dontari Poe doesn’t explode into blockers and impose himself physically -> Jim Washburn is a screaming maniac who wants his tackles to be “guard killers”. Jim Washburn would certainly teach Poe how to impose himself.
Dontari Poe doesn’t seem to have any sort of strategy or intent when rushing the passer, he just goes wherever his moves take him -> Jim Washburn charts where every single sack happens.
“In his years coaching the Tennessee line, he’d always get lightly regarded players (Jacob Ford,Jason Jones) or veteran rejects (Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Babin) to produce in the pass-rush game,” writes King. “One of his secrets was charting every sack in the NFL each year to determine what kind of move was used (spin, bull-rush, stunt/twist) to get to the quarterback, and where exactly the sack took place.
“So let’s say Washburn’s study determined that the average sacks of the teams Tennessee was going to play the next year occurred 5.5 yards behind the left guard. Washburn would then coach the following offseason to target the area 5.5 yards behind the left guard as the spot during drills his linemen would aim for. He took pass-rush science to a new level.”
Clearly this would help give Poe some direction as a pass rusher.
Jim Washburn consistently gets the best out of players and he’s had success with raw athletes out of college before. Washburn’s resume includes players like Albert Haynesworth (6’6” – 317 lbs – 4.82 40) and Jevon Kearse (6’5” – 262 lbs – 4.62). Pairing a freak athlete like Poe with a coach like Jim Washburn who is motivational, studious and effective could create a monster player.