The last time Romeo Crennel had a rookie nose tackle that was a first-round pick was in 2004. That player was Vince Wilfork.
Wilfork has turned into a dominant force at nose tackle in New England, making four Pro Bowls and starting the last 106 games he's played in. But in his rookie season, Wilfork fought for the job throughout the year with veteran Keith Traylor. Wilfork started the opener, but the next game he came off the bench. He started seven games that season -- Traylor started the other 12, playoffs included -- and not until the next year did Wilfork earn the starting job outright.
The Wilfork story is one to take note of because on Friday when the Chiefs opened training camp, some guy named Anthony Toribio was the starter at nose tackle. Not first-round pick Dontari Poe. Toribio has played in two regular season games and made three tackles in his career.
"Some guy named Poe might end up getting some plays and might end up being a starter down the line," Crennel said on Friday.
Nice bluff, Romeo.
Crennel's message to Poe is that he has to earn his spot, but it's a tough sale when apparently Poe's top competition is a guy who has bounced around practice squads and played his college ball at Division II Carson-Newman.
Unlike Wilfork in his rookie season, Poe has the luxury that he would really have to lose the job rather than go win it. The Chiefs cleared the way when they did not bring back veterans Kelly Gregg and Ron Edwards in the offseason, leaving it up to Poe, Amon Gordon, who played on the end most of last year, Jerrell Powe and possibly Toribio to man the middle of the line. If anyone was sent a message on Friday by Toribio taking snaps as the starter, it was Powe, a sixth-round pick in 2011.
Poe was the one missing piece defensively for the Chiefs to become a dominant 3-4 defense and now it's up to the rookie to show his coach he was worth the pick.
"When the pads come on, I want to see that he is a dominant football player that can force double teams and stay at the line of scrimmage versus double teams," Crennel said. "When we put the pads on, we'll see. Everyone looks good in shorts."
Other first-round picks on defense coached by Crennel (as a defensive coordinator or head coach):
- 2000: DE Courtney Brown, picked second overall, started all 16 games his rookie season for the Browns.
- 2001: DE Richard Seymour, picked sixth overall, started in Week 2 and started 10 of 13 games he played in as a rookie for the Patriots.
- 2004: DE Ty Warren, picked 13th overall, made his first start in Week 5 and started four of 16 games in his rookie year for the Patriots.
- 2006: DE Kamerion Wimbley, picked 13th overall, made his first start in Week 2 and started the final 15 games in his rookie year for the Browns.
- 2010: S Eric Berry, picked fifth overall, started all 16 games for the Chiefs in his rookie year.