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Poe should look to his right (or left) for rookie advice

Posted May 4, 2012

Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson remember rookie struggle

Things don’t come easy for rookie defensive linemen. Just ask Glenn Dorsey or Tyson Jackson.

It was only four years ago that Dorsey was going through the same things as Dontari Poe.

Dorsey was on Cloud Nine. Photo shoots, man-hugs with the Commissioner, countless interviews, three-piece suits, flashy watches, well wishers – it call goes with the hype  of being a top pick in the NFL.

At some point over the next few months, likely sometime in August, all the thrills of draft day will become a distant memory for Poe.

“Training camp,” Dorsey laughed, recalling the first time the NFL humbled him. “It’s never easy. You’ve got guys that have been in the league 10-12 years, training camp is where the guy in line is just as good as you, at least as good as you think you are.

“It’s going to be a transition for him, but we’re going to try and work with him and hopefully he can help us out.”

Dorsey, drafted fifth overall in the 2008 draft, was widely-perceived as the top interior defensive lineman of his draft class. When Dorsey was still on the board at No. 5, it was a no-brainer for the Chiefs to select him and Kansas City drew rave reviews for the selection.

Then came training camp.

Dorsey’s first camp was challenging for a number of reasons. Aside from going through the rookie learning curve, a sprained left knee sidelined Dorsey just one week into camp.

Dorsey’s rookie production was somewhat forgettable. He played hurt and went on to start all 16 games, but a young Chiefs team struggled to a 2-14 finish. Dorsey totaled 50 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery.

“I think it’s just technique wise,” Dorsey said of the learning curve for rookie defensive linemen. “You’re playing against guys that have done it for a long time and they know the tricks of the trade. There’s always a learning curve because college depends on a lot of talent, of course, but when you reach the pros, it’s more of technique work too.

“You have to be perfect on your technique work or the guy will get you.”

Flanking Poe’s left side is another top draft pick who struggled with the rookie learning curve.

Tyson Jackson didn’t go through the same draft day extravaganza in New York, but was selected third overall and joined the 2009 Chiefs with high expectations as the first draft pick of new GM Scott Pioli.

The Chiefs went 4-12 and Jackson finished his rookie season with 31 tackles a no sacks.

“You can only prepare as much as you can for that particular time,” Jackson said. “The SEC is going to prepare you as much you possibly can to get you ready for the NFL. It’s going to be a culture shock – it is fair warning.”

One thing working into Poe’s favor is that he’s walking into a veteran-laced defense expected to be a source of strength for the 2012 Chiefs.

Dorsey and Jackson didn’t have that luxury.

When Dorsey arrived, the Chiefs were in complete rebuilding mode after the wheels fell off an aging roster in 2007. Part of that rebuilding included trading the team’s best defensive player, DE Jared Allen, to the Vikings for a trio of draft picks.

At the time of Jackson’s selection, the Chiefs were going through more transition. With fresh leadership at the top came new roles for even the most veteran players of the team’s defense. Kansas City was in the process of switching from a 43 scheme to a 34 base defense.

“It’s really tough because you’re changing everything that you’ve been taught your whole life,” said Dorsey, who was originally drafted to play in a 43 system. “The technique is totally different.”

Nationally, the opinion is that Dorsey is miscast as a 34 defensive end. He thrived in college as a 43 defensive tackle and has developed into one of the league’s better run defenders, but has struggled to match the production he saw in college as a pass rusher.

The same goes for Jackson, who grades out as one of the league’s better run-defending defensive linemen, but has notched just 2.0 sacks in three NFL seasons.

Jackson produced 18.5 sacks in 39 starts at LSU.

“It is frustrating because I feel like not everyone understands a 34 defense and what we do in particular,” Dorsey said. “You can’t compare our defense to anybody else because it does different stuff.

“It does get frustrating at times, but just me personally, I kind of feel like people don’t understand how hard we work. It is what it is. People are entitled to their opinion. I have mine just like everybody else, so you can’t do anything about it. Just keep on working.”

There’s already a lot of public opinion on Poe as well. Much like Dorsey and Jackson, Poe’s rookie season will be his first playing exclusively in a 34 scheme.

The quicker Poe can adapt, the better Kansas City’s defense will be.

Dorsey and Jackson have the opportunity to play key roles that adjustment.

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