Dontari Poe's quest to become an NFL starter begins in St. Joe

Posted Jul 27, 2012

The eight previous first-round picks on Kansas City’s roster all started as rookies, but not everyone drew the starting nod on Opening Day

It took Eric Berry just one offseason practice before he was inserted into the Chiefs starting lineup. Few rookies in Chiefs history have seized a starting role faster than Berry.

Berry then proceeded to play every defensive snap in 2010 and became the first Chiefs rookie since Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas to earn a Pro Bowl invite following his first professional season.

"Rookies, I never let rookies be the starter," head coach Romeo Crennel said earlier this spring. "When Eric came, I didn't make him a starter. He had to go out there and show me something first so Dontari Poe is going to have to do the same."

And that’s the question now that Poe is under contract. How long will it take the first-round draft pick to become a starter in Crennel’s defense?

Poe ended the offseason program working with the first-team unit in sub-package situations, but he's yet to take over the job as Kansas City’s starting nose tackle.

Competing with Poe for the job include veteran Amon Gordon, 2011 sixth-round pick Jerrell Powe and Anthony Toribio. It's a position battle  likely see its fair share of rotation throughout the preseason.

"He’s made progress," Crennel said of Poe’s offseason. "The thing that impresses me the most is not his natural ability, but the fact that he's trying to play the technique the way we play it.

“The way we play it is not always the easiest way to play it, so he's taking to coaching and executing the way we want him to execute. Like I’ve said, we have to get the pads on to really be able to tell and find out, but he's taking steps in the right direction."

It won’t be long until we see Poe line up for his first full-padded NFL practice. There isn’t much question that he’ll one day become the Chiefs starting nose tackle, but how quickly will that day come?

Here’s a look at Kansas City’s No. 1 picks dating back to Derrick Johnson in 2005, and when they started for the first time:

2011: WR Jonathan Baldwin

Started at wide receiver in Week 9 (11/6/11)

Baldwin, the 26th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, began his NFL career on the inactive list. A training camp thumb injury kept the rookie receiver out of action until late October and Baldwin wouldn’t make his first professional start until his third game on the active list.

When the Chiefs opened in a three-receiver set against Miami on November 6th, Baldwin became a starter for the first time. He actually lined up in the slot with veterans Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston commanding outside roles. Baldwin went on to make three starts as a rookie. All of them came when the Chiefs opened in three-receiver sets.

2010: S Eric Berry

Started at safety in Week 1 (vs. SD, 9/13/10)

There wasn’t much question about Berry, the fifth overall pick in 2010, becoming a Week One starter. The Chiefs were thin at the position after Mike Brown held down the strong safety job for one season and then headed into retirement. The Chiefs desperately needed to upgrade a defense that finished the 2009 season ranked 30th in yards allowed (388.2 ypg.) and 29th in points against (26.5 ppg.). 

So the Chiefs turned to Berry and played him non-stop. He appeared in every single defensive snap, pacing the team with four interceptions and finishing second on the defense with 126 tackles. Oh, and Berry also played special teams.

The Chiefs needed immediate production out of their top pick and Berry provided a Pro Bowl season.

2009: DE Tyson Jackson

Started at left defensive end in Week 1 (at BAL, 9/13/09)

Transitioning from a 4-3 defense into a 3-4 scheme called for a boatload of personnel changes prior to the start of the 2009 season. Part of that transition was reassigning Tamba Hali and Turk McBride - starters at defensive end in 2008 – to outside linebacker.

To counter new position assignments for Hali and McBride, Glenn Dorsey shifted from defensive tackle to defensive end. Still, the Chiefs were short on personnel to fit their new 3-4 scheme  and opted to select Jackson with the third overall pick in the 2009 draft.

The only real competition standing between Jackson and a Day One starting role was journeyman veteran Alfonso Boone. Boone was released shortly after Jackson passed him on the depth chart. Jackson went on to play in all 16 games as a rookie. The only two games he didn’t start came when the Chiefs opened in a nickel defense.

2008: DE Glenn Dorsey

Started at right defensive tackle in Week 1 (at NE, 9/7/08)

A preseason knee injury sidelined Dorsey for two weeks of training camp, but the setback wouldn't keep the fifth overall pick from starting all 16 games as a rookie.

Dorsey began his NFL career as a defensive tackle in Kansas City’s 4-3 defensive scheme under former head coach Herm Edwards. The Chiefs were the NFL’s youngest team heading into the 2008 campaign and one of the thinnest positions on the roster was defensive tackle. Dorsey would beat out T.J. Jackson – who had been on the practice squad the season before – for the starting job beside Tank Tyler.

Branden Albert, who was also a first-round pick with the 15th overall selection, started in Week One as well. He beat out former sixth-round draft pick Herb Taylor for the starting job at left tackle and opened 15 games as a rookie.

2007: WR Dwayne Bowe

Started at wide receiver in Week 2 (at CHI, 9/16/07)

Bowe started 15 games as a rookie, but not on Opening Day. Veterans Eddie Kennison and Samie Parker drew Week One starts in 2007, but it didn’t take long for Bowe to find his way onto the field.

The first offensive play of the season called for an end-around to Kennison, who gained five yards but also came up limping with an injured hamstring. Bowe was on the field a play later and finished the game with a team-high seven targets at wide receiver. The 23rd overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft was an offensive mainstay for the remainder of the season.

Bowe led all rookies in 2007 with 70 catches for 995 yards (14.2 avg.) and also added five touchdowns.

2006: OLB Tamba Hali

Started at left defensive end in Week 1 (vs. CIN, 9/10/06)

Hali, selected 20th overall out of Penn State, began his career playing opposite defensive end Jared Allen in Kansas City’s 4-3 defensive scheme. A starter of all 16 games, Hali became the first rookie defensive end in Chiefs history to start every game since Art Still and Sylvester Hicks both accomplished the feat in 1978.

Allen had turned in his first double-digit sack campaign the season before, but it was Hali who led Kansas City’s defense with 8.0 sacks in 2006. His 8.0 sacks were the third-highest total by a rookie in Chiefs history and ranked fourth among NFL rookies that year.

Hali’s primary competition for a starting role consisted of veterans Eric Hicks, Carlos Hall and Jimmy Wilkerson.

2005: LB Derrick Johnson

Started at left outside linebacker in Week 1 (vs. NYJ, 9/11/05)

Johnson, the 15th overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, was a Week One starter at linebacker alongside Kawika Mitchell and Kendrell Bell. The rookie turned in a 110-tackle season finishing third on the squad behind Mitchell (135) and safety Sammy Knight (118).

After beating out Keyaron Fox and Scott Fujita for a starting job in training camp, Johnson became the first rookie linebacker in team history to start all 16 games since Dino Hackett did so in 1986. His 110 tackles were also the most by a rookie linebacker since Hackett posted 140 stops.

Fujita was traded to the Cowboys for a sixth-round pick at the close of the preseason.

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