2014 Chiefs Positional Review: the Defensive Line

NT Dontari Poe is headed back to the Pro Bowl

Kansas City Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe did it again this season.

His 89 percent of defensive snaps played (944) was an absurd rate only topped by five other linemen in the league this year.

Poe had six sacks, which tied linebacker Tamba Hali for second in the category on the team, and for the second year in a row, he made it to the Pro Bowl, an accomplishment he took much pride in.

"Just to know how it's voted on – it's not just the fans, it's the players and coaches," Poe explained. "Obviously you have to get votes from all three of those. So for me to get the respect from the guys around the league like that is big."

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Allen Bailey, the Chiefs' right end, had five sacks and 27 tackles on the season, and his play earned him a midseason contract extension in November.

A concussion kept Bailey out of the lineup for Weeks 14 and 15, but he returned to the Chiefs for Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers and recorded a sack in the season finale against the San Diego Chargers.

One of the more intriguing stories surrounding the defensive line happened heading into the season with left end Mike DeVito's offseason diet alteration.

While DeVito entered camp at his familiar weight, just more than 300 pounds, dieting had turned his bad weight into good, and in interviews, he explained that he felt "as good and as strong as ever."

DeVito being so poised for a great season made it even more disheartening when he went down with a season-ending Achilles injury in the Chiefs' first game against the Tennessee Titans. But with the injury came a silver lining, an opportunity for another Chiefs player to earn his keep.

Stepping into the limelight all of a sudden was Jaye Howard, who after coming from the Seattle Seahawks via waivers, had the best season of his career to date.

The 2014 Kansas City Chiefs' defensive line.

"Howard is an explosive player," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of the defensive tackle back in August. "His big thing was just making sure that was something that took place on every play. Consistency was the factor, he's shown us that he can do that throughout his time here. He had a good preseason with us and now will have an opportunity to get in there and play a little bit more."

Before this year, Howard hadn't played in more than 48 defensive snaps, but this season he had a career-high 436, or 41.1 percent of the Chiefs' defensive snaps.

What allowed for the starters' success were strong years from reserves Vance Walker (228 snaps; 21.5 percent) and Kevin Vickerson (171 snaps, 16.1 percent).

According to the football analytics website, Pro Football Focus, Walker's 6.8 defensive rating was the best of any Chiefs defensive linemen and the fourth-best mark of any Chiefs defender.

The Chiefs will look to build on the 2014 season in 2015 with the return of DeVito as well as Mike Catapano, who spent the year on injured reserve.

If they can come back and make an impact, and the play of the returners is parallel with this season's performance, the defensive line possesses very dangerous potential for the 2015 campaign.

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