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OTA Notebook: Poe gets in the mix

Posted May 24, 2012

Dontari Poe works his way into snaps with first-team defense

It took Dontari Poe just three practices to work his way into reps with the first-team defense.

The Chiefs defense focused on sub-package work throughout much of Thursday’s OTA session with Poe serving as the man in the middle.

“We were working on subs, so I think that helped to elevate him in that respect,” head coach Romeo Crennel said, hinting that Poe may still have some work to do before working as the first-team nose tackle in Kansas City’s base personnel.

Regardless, Poe’s inclusion with the first-team on sub-package snaps is significant. The Chiefs played sub-package personnel in close to half their snaps last season. Against Green Bay, Kansas City played over 80% of its defensive snaps in sub-package sets.

One of the characteristics that attracted the Chiefs to Poe was his ability to play multiple techniques across the defensive front. Poe was drafted to be the long-term solution at nose tackle, but the Chiefs are hopeful he can eventually develop into a three-down defensive lineman.

“When we drafted him we thought he had some pass rush ability and that he might be able to fit in on the sub,” said Crennel. “In the situation that we’re in right now, we’ve lost a couple of guys – particularly Wallace Gilberry, who was our sub-rusher – so we have to plug somebody in there and he’s got the kind of ability that you might want to plug in.”

On Thursday’s second snap from scrimmage Poe burst through the line and found his way to QB Matt Cassel. Pads are absent from OTAs and no live contact is permitted, but Poe was able to show impressive strength and quickness on the play.

“If you can practice without pads, you can do it with pads,” Poe said earlier this week. “It’s about your hands and your steps and being explosive through your hips. Once you get that down, the other stuff becomes easier.”

“He’s been good,” Crennel added. “He’s learning and he’s trying to do what we’re coaching him to do. That’s the biggest thing, being able to assimilate into our system is going to be critical and it looks like he’s more than willing to try and do it the way we want to do it.”

Using OTA time to place Poe in sub-package scenarios is a good opportunity to see how much the rookie can handle.  

 “I will not say that he has the ability to help us out more with the pass rush or run,” Crennel said. “He has enough ability to help us out with both of them. It just depends on how quickly he picks up our system and how he does on the field.”

Three Draft Picks Held Out of Practice

Second-round draft pick OL Jeff Allen wore a walking boot on his left leg after injuring his ankle in Monday’s opening OTA session. The 44th overall pick in this year’s draft started 47 consecutive games at left tackle for the University of Illinois and was working behind veteran Ryan Lilja at left guard earlier this week.

Also injured during Monday’s OTA session was sixth-round draft pick RB Cyrus Gray. His hamstring injury left the Chiefs thin at running back with Jamaal Charles continuing to rest his surgically-repaired left knee. Peyton Hillis served as the starter with Shaun Draughn running behind.

With fifth-round draft pick De’Quan Menzie also nursing a hamstring injury, the Chiefs were missing a good bulk of their 2012 draft class.

“Menzie has that hamstring and is trying to get it right,” Crennel said. “Hopefully the long weekend will help him and next week he will be able to get back in there and do something.”

Veteran DE Ropati Pitoitua suffered a calf injury and was held out of practice as well. He joined S Eric Berry (knee), OL Rob Bruggeman (finger), S Kendrick Lewis (shoulder/pectoral), TE Tony Moeaki (knee) and LB Brandon Siler (Achilles) on the sidelines to bring Kansas City’s injury count to 10 players.

In total, 86 of the team’s 88 players were in attendance for Thursday’s practice. WR Dwayne Bowe continues to stay away with an unsigned franchise tender and rookie DL Ethan Johnson was absent for personal reasons.

Parks and Daniels Continue Roaming Defensive Back Line

The door is wide open for play-time at safety with both Berry and Lewis sidelined, but the Chiefs have opened OTAs by giving Travis Daniels and Terrance Parks long looks at each safety position.

Both players worked with the first-team defense again on Thursday with Daniels filling in for Lewis at free safety and Parks manning Berry’s strong safety post.

 “The thing that I like about the defensive backfield is physically they are all pretty decent-looking kids,” Crennel said. “They’ve got some size, got some height and now if they can pick it up and give us an opportunity to make some plays, then that will be good for us.”

Daniels and Parks are both former cornerbacks.

Parks began his college career at corner before finishing his final 26 games as a safety at Florida State. Daniels has played sparingly at safety over his seven-year NFL career, seeing the majority of his time as a sub-package cornerback.

“Generally, if you play a corner, that means you generally have a little bit more speed than the guy who plays safety,” Crennel said. “If you’ve got a corner that’s got some size and he can pick it up on the inside, now then that gives you a better overall athlete that you can play with. That was some of the thinking – to take a look and see what he could do.”

Play of the Day

WR Jonathan Baldwin hauled in another deep ball and CB Jalil Brown got his hands on a football, but WR Terrance Cooper took the day with yet another touchdown reception.

“All Copper does is make touchdown catches,” Crennel joked. “He made one on Monday; he made one today. All of those things are good, so we’ll just keep that going.”

Copper has served as a reserve receiver for the Chiefs since 2009 and is one of the team’s most active special teams players, but the fight for roster spots is crowded at the position with two draft picks and Dexter McCluster all vying for time. Copper is in the thick of that competition.  

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