What are the Falcons getting in Dontari Poe? Obviously a starting defensive tackle, given both the money they’ve given him and the team’s glaring need, but can Poe be a great player.
For the answer to that, we’re going to turn to the film very soon, but first we’ll hear from the experts at Arrowhead Pride, who have been watching Poe since he was drafted. Do they think he’s a tremendous pickup?
Yes and no.
First of all, there’s the pass rush. We’re all aware based on his sack and pressure totals that Poe is not an elite pass rusher for a defensive tackle, so our expectations are probably appropriate in that regard. But considering he has a toolkit of moves and quality athleticism, there’s a little mystery as to why he’s not better in that regard:
I really am mystified as to why a guy with Poe’s exceptional athleticism for his size doesn’t get more pass rush (it felt like he did in years past) than he does, but it’s just not something you see much of in multiple games.
One thing that’s interesting is that Poe’s bull rush is ineffective the vast majority of the time. It’s incredible, because he’s a big guy with legs like tree trunks and what seems to be a powerful upper body when he’s clubbing people. However, when he goes into a bull rush it very, very rarely finds any success, generally ending with a stonewall by the offensive lineman.
But as a run defender, and especially at his size, is Poe great? Again, there are caveats here.
My primary issue with Poe is that, in my opinion, he didn’t do enough to raise the level of a struggling run defense to warrant being called a great run defender. He’s solid at it. Decent. But inconsistent at times and not immovable at the point of attack, particularly against good offensive lines.
You can find plenty of plays where Poe reads the play, moves well, fights past his man and makes a play against the run. You can also, as Arrowhead Pride notes, find plays where he just doesn’t get it done. That describes most every defensive tackle in the league, but there are times where Poe just gets pushed around, and that’s tough to explain away when you’re 346 pounds and built like a brick house.
The verdict, in a nutshell?
My overall impression watching Poe’s film is that he’s a slightly worse pass rusher than I thought he was going in and a slightly better run defender. However, the fact that he can passably (at times) rush the passer while being (generally) decent against the run adds to his value. Many defensive linemen are one or the other (see: Jackson, Tyson) and become a liability in any other scenario. Poe can be on the field for any type of down, and that’s a big deal.
Poe is a supremely talented player who doesn’t consistently produce at an elite or even great level, particularly as a pass rusher. Considering he played nearly 75% of Kansas City’s defensive snaps last year, and that he won’t be asked to do the same thing in Atlanta, those flashes may come more often on fresher legs. Pair that with the fact that Quinn has reportedly talked to Poe about losing weight and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about this signing. Just remember that even good signings come with warts.