Chiefs mailbag: Who steps up to offer relief for DT Dontari Poe?

The latest call for Chiefs-related questions ahead of training camp required a two-part mailbag given the quality and depth of the inquiries.

Part I touched on position battles, among other subjects, while Part II shifts focus to the defensive of the ball.

Todd Ruback isn’t the only one to ponder defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s heavy workload. So, let’s combine the next question with the first for practical purposes.

Concerns over Poe’s workload are appropriate, especially when considering he logged more than 1,000 total snaps for the second straight season.

The 6-3, 346-pound Poe recorded 1,007 snaps (944 defensive or 89 percent of snaps on defense) in 2014, a year after posting 1,030 snaps (975 defensive, 87.8 percent) in 2013.

Poe totaled 823 snaps (743 defensive) during his rookie season of 2012.

Nov. 16, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe (92) sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Nov. 16, 2014; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe (92) sacks Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) in the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

ChiefsDigest.com contributor Nick Jacobs recently offered an overview of the defensive line where he pointed out the importance of finding Poe relief.

Poe, who turns 25 on Aug. 18, is still young, but it is tough to argue against the snaps eventually taking a toll on the two-time Pro Bowl selection.

The Chiefs have big bodies to consider for that role heading into training camp, among them are 2015 sixth-round pick Rakeem Nunez-Roches, undrafted free agent Charles Tuaau, former Green Bay Packers second-round pick Jerel Worthy and former Pittsburgh Steelers seventh-round pick Nick Williams, whom the Chiefs signed off the Steelers practice squad late last season.

For a tale of the tape: Nunez-Roches measures 6-2, 307 pounds; Tuaau tips the scale at 6-5, 310 pounds; Worthy stands 6-2, 308 pounds; and Williams is listed at 6-4, 309 pounds.

Williams, who comes from a background in a 3-4 base defense while with the Steelers, could prove the dark horse to keep an eye on.

In the meantime, a proper gauge on the pending battle arrives once the pads come on in training camp, along with the contact.

But the Chiefs also have other options if none of the four players rise to the occasion.

Jaye Howard, who measures 6-3, 301 pounds, can play defensive tackle and defensive end. It is also noteworthy to mention Mike DeVito moved from defensive end to Poe’s spot during OTAs when Poe missed time with a back spasm.

What a great question, but the times are off.

Here are the 3-cone drill and 40-yard dash times with year tested at the NFL Scouting Combine or Pro Days for the six players to log a start at cornerback last season based on quick research:

PLAYER YEAR CLOCKED 3-CONE TIME 40-YARD DASH TIME
Sean Smith 2009 Combine 6.94 4.51
Chris Owens* 2009 Combine 6.93 4.51
Ron Parker 2011 Pro Day 6.74 4.35
Jamell Fleming 2012 Combine 6.71 4.53
Marcus Cooper 2013 Pro Day 6.89 4.45
Phillip Gaines 2014 Combine 6.62 4.38

*No longer with team

The 3-Cone drill gauges a player’s agility, directional change at high speed and fluidity, while the 40-yard dash is all about speed and explosion from a static start.

Still, there are additional factors to consider when evaluating the cornerback position leading to the NFL Draft.

And this required a telephone call to a good buddy and one of the industry’s top NFL Draft prognosticators, senior draft analyst Rob Rang of CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com, on what he looks for.

Rang said he prefers to use times from the 3-Cone and Short Shuttle when reviewing cornerbacks projected to play in nickel and dime packages since they operate in tight space, where agility and fluid lateral movement are necessary.

When it comes to cornerbacks on the outside, Rang said he prefers straight-line speed and 40-yard dash times carry more importance.

But Rang rightfully cautions against using drill times as the dominant tool to evaluate a player.

“All of them are just numbers,” Rang said. “Ultimately, what is on game tape is the most important factor.”

Rang points out the Chiefs’ first-round pick, cornerback Marcus Peters, is a testament to that stance.

Peters clocked a 7.08 in the 3-Cone drill and a 4.53 40-yard dash at the Combine, but the 3-Cone time shouldn’t be a concern.

“He had some of the best game tape of the cornerbacks I reviewed before the draft,” Rang said. “You’re going to like him.”

For the curious, third-round pick Steven Nelson clocked a 6.88 3-Cone and a 4.49 40-yard dash at the Combine.

The run defense remains a concern until the Chiefs prove it is no longer a weakness.

Of course, the Chiefs were without inside linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito in 2014 after both players suffered ruptured Achilles tendons in the regular-season opener.

And then the Chiefs played a large chunk of the season without All-Pro strong safety Eric Berry, who missed time with a high-ankle sprain before being diagnosed with lymphoma.

But the team’s 28th ranked defense against the run (127.2 yard allowed per game) last year comes on the heels of being ranked 22nd against the run in 2013 (120.2 yards allowed per game).

The clear strength on defense surrounds the pass coverage and ability to get to the quarterback.

Outside linebacker Justin Houston, who led the league in 2014 with 22 sacks, anchors a pass rush that totaled 46 sacks on the season, good for fifth-most in the NFL.

The team’s pass rush played a large role in the coverage not allowing a 300-yard passer on the 2014 season and No. 2 ranking against the pass (203.2 yards allowed per game).

As for expectations, it is reasonable to see an improvement against the run with Johnson and DeVito back as healthy pieces to go along with one of the league’s top pass defenses.

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Have a Chiefs-related question? Tweet them to @HerbieTeope or hashtag #ChiefsDigest. But note only my Twitter followers will have questions featured here.

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