Dontari Poe remains the foundation on the Chiefs defensive line, but securing a backup should be a priority.
2014 ROSTER: Allen Bailey, Jaye Howard, Dontari Poe, Kevin Vickerson, Vance Walker, Nick Williams.
INJURED RESERVE: Mike Catapano (illness, concussion), Mike DeVito (Achilles)
2015 FREE AGENTS: Kevin Vickerson
Defensive tackle Dontari Poe led the charge for the defensive line all season, totaling 46 tackles (38 solo) and a career-high six sacks.
He played 1,007 total snaps with 944 coming on defense, according to the NFL stat-based website FootballOutsiders.com.
To put Poe’s snaps on defense in perspective, only five defensive linemen in the league – J.J. Watt (1,050), Rob Ninkovich (1,021), Cameron Jordan (999), Everson Griffen (967), Jason Pierre-Paul (960) – had more. Toward the end of the season, it was obvious that all the snaps started to wear on Poe.
Defensive end Allen Bailey had 41 tackles (27 solo) and five sacks on the season and was awarded a four-year contract extension in mid-November. Bailey notched 860 total snaps, with 748 coming on defense. He was second among the defensive line, which was way behind Poe’s mark.
Defensive end Jaye Howard stepped up in place of DeVito, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in the season opener. Howard was on the field for 444 total snaps, 436 of which came on defense. By Week 8, Howard was a consistent contributor. Howard closed out the last 10 games of the season averaging 2.7 tackles per game.
Defensive end Kevin Vickerson took 292 total snaps, 171 of which came on defense. He suited up in 15 games and ended the season with 12 tackles (9 solo). For being on the field as little as he was, he was productive.
Walker wasn’t far behind Vickerson in snap count, taking 234 total snaps, 228 coming on defense. He registered 19 tackles (14 solo) and two sacks on the season.
It goes without saying that Poe needs some relief. His heavy workload hardly decreased from the season before when he totaled 1,030 snaps (975 on defense), according to FootballOustiders.com.
The Chiefs can exercise the fifth-year option on Poe, who enters the final year of his contract in 2015. But general manager John Dorsey didn’t indicate a day after the regular season ended the direction the team is leaning.
“What we’re going to do now is we’re sitting and planning and kind of laying out our plan as we move forward here,” Dorsey said on Dec. 29, 2014. “This is fresh from 25 hours of the game being played right now. Today we had all the players in and we kind of just wanted to sit and talk to the players a little bit. Tomorrow we’ll kind of begin that process of laying out that plan as we move forward here by the week.”
Coach Andy Reid said on Dec. 29, 2104 that defensive end Mike DeVito (and linebacker Derrick Johnson) should be ready to go for the first phase of offseason workouts in April.
“They’ve been working out together here rehabbing and they’ve been challenging each other like crazy,” Reid said.
Catapano was originally placed on the non-football injury list with what the Chiefs later revealed to be a gastrointestinal-based virus. The Chiefs eventually placed him on injured reserve with a concussion.
Catapano recently shared with a fan on Twitter he would be back “better than ever.”
“@im_alex: how you doing Mike? Are you healthy and ready to comeback and show what you can do! I believe in YOU!” I will be better than ever
— Mike Catapano (@MikeCatapano77) December 28, 2014
It will be a long road back for Catapano, as he has lost weight and essentially hasn’t played meaningful football since the 2013 season.
Vickerson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March. But the ninth-year pro told ChiefsDigest.com’s Herbie Teope in the locker room after the Week 17 season finale he would enjoy an opportunity to stay with the Chiefs.
“Hopefully I get a new contract,” Vickerson said. “Hopefully I can be here to go on the whole run. I like the coaching staff, I like the players and they got a good young, hungry unit. I’m just trying to help them as much as I can, however I can.”
ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK?
Walker, who signed a three-year, $13 million free-agent contract in March 2014, is getting paid starter money. But he played less than 250 total snaps and his playing time didn’t equal the money.
Walker is due a base salary of $2.7 million in 2015 and will count $3.7 million against the cap. The Chiefs could look to replace him for cheap and potentially get someone to give Poe some rest on game day.