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Anthony Pleasant brings player perspective to Dontari Poe's development

Posted Jun 11, 2012

Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant spent a portion of his playing days in Romeo Crennel's 3-4 defense


Anthony Pleasant should know exactly what Dontari Poe is going through. At various stops during his 13-year NFL career, Pleasant had to learn the exact techniques Poe is now learning at OTAs.

Pleasant, the current Chiefs defensive line coach, played under Romeo Crennel twice--once as a member of the New York Jets, and again as a member of the New England Patriots.  He thrived in New England, rushing the passer as a defensive end as stopping the run as a defensive tackle during two Super Bowl-winning seasons.

Crennel and the Chiefs had similar expectations in mind when they made Poe the eleventh overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.  And in order to groom their prized prospect, the Chiefs are relying on Pleasant to impart the knowledge he gained playing for Crennel on Poe.

Poe played nearly every position on the defensive line at Memphis, and draft experts said he could excel as one of two defensive tackles in a 4-3 system or as the sole tackle in a 3-4 alignment.

Poe will be expected to act as the latter in Crennel’s 3-4 system and line up as the nose tackle. The rookie has played in some sub-package alignments during OTAs tailored for passing situations, but in a 3-4 configuration, outside linebackers usually amass sacks—called the “glory stat” by Pleasant.

Poe said he’s been using OTAs to begin to tailor his game to an unfamiliar style of defense.

“It’s a different technique,” Poe said. “But once you learn it, you can be dominant with it. They’ve been playing (the 3-4) way longer than I have, so anything I can get from my teammates is the best thing for me.”

Pleasant’s advice to Poe comes from first-hand knowledge he gained during his own playing career. In 1990, Pleasant was drafted by the Browns to be a pass-rush specialist at defensive end. However, when Bill Belichick was hired as Cleveland’s head coach in 1991, Pleasant has to adjust to his new role outside the spotlight.

“That was something totally new to me,” said Pleasant of his transition to a “two-gap” defensive lineman. “But I was willing to make that transition because I was determined to make it.”

So far, Pleasant likes what he sees from his new star pupil. Without pads and contact, determining how far along Poe actually is can be difficult. But Poe has shown flashes of disruptive run-stopping ability—as evidenced by a two-play stretch from one of last week’s OTA sessions.

The first play exhibited Poe’s block-shedding ability. Lined up with the first team players, he shot between left guard Ryan Lilja and center Rodney Hudson to force running back Peyton Hillis to bounce outside.

On the next snap, Poe was one of the players that met Hillis on the edge after another running play. He correctly diagnosed the play as an outside zone run, shuffled down the defensive line, and was the first player to meet Hillis in the hole he was supposed to run through.

Pads or no pads, Pleasant was impressed.

“He’s a unique type of player,” said Pleasant about Poe after Friday’s OTAs. “It’s good to have a guy of that magnitude and size. He just has to continue to work hard and push himself.”

The Chiefs could need Poe to keep pushing himself in order for the defense to reach its full potential. He could be the missing link in the middle for a squad that looks great on paper.

Safeties Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis return in the secondary, Pro Bowlers Tamba Hali and Derrick Johnson comprise a promising linebacking corps, and Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson are building their reputations as two of the league’s better run-stopping 3-4 defensive ends.

If Poe can learn from Pleasant and be a disruptive force in the middle of that talented group, the Chiefs defense could be equally unruly in 2012.

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