If you think Dontari Poe is totally satisfied – has peaked as a player, if you will – just because he's been named to two Pro Bowls by the age 26, think again.
Poe, who signed a one-year prove-it deal with the Falcons during free agency, is hardly satisfied.
There's a part of Poe's game that hasn't been developed to his liking and he's ready for that to come to life. After spending the last five seasons in Kansas City, he's ready to add the pass-rushing element to his game, a part of his game he feels like can take him to the next level.
So when Poe, who has 13 career sacks, was shopping for a potential landing spot in April, it seemed only fitting that he would visit Atlanta and Dan Quinn –a coach who has a reputation for developing pass-rushers.
The way Quinn was able to develop Seahawks Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett showed Atlanta's head coach the value in investing in players and helping them each their maximum potential.
"He understands how to put people in the right position to be a great player," Bennett said of Quinn.
When Bennett signed with the Seahawks in 2009 as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, it was in large part because of Quinn – Seattle's defensive line coach at the time – and the plan he said he had in place for him.
In Bennett's tape, Quinn saw two traits he holds high regard for in pass-rushers: Initial get-off speed and toughness.
Once he saw that, Quinn knew he could work with him – and so he did.
Bennett's first stint with the Seahawks was cut short as the defensive end was cut in October of 2009, but that didn't stop him from staying connected to Quinn. When Quinn left Seattle to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, Bennett stayed in close contact, often asking for suggestions on how he could improve.
After four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009-2012), Bennett re-signed with the Seahawks, reuniting himself with Quinn who had returned to Seattle to become the team's defensive coordinator for the 2013-14 seasons.
During that time, Bennett recorded 15.5 sacks and was one of Seattle's best defensive players on their Super Bowl XLVIII winning team.
To this day, Bennett credits Quinn and his unique coaching style for helping him develop into the player he is today.
"He embodies the hard-nosed type of coach who, he expects a lot but at the same time, he has that relationship with his players where players can come and talk to him," Bennett said. "I think Dan does a great job of building trust with his players."
Poe, has been primarily featured at nose tackle so far in his career, could very well be the next defensive lineman Quinn takes to another level. The Falcons plan to feature Poe not only at nose tackle, but also three-technique as well, according to Quinn.
This transition requires a shift in mindset and getting his movements down to a science.
"Transitioning my mind from where I was last year to now," Poe said of what he's working on currently. "Attack ... overall pass rush, which is getting off and being disruptive, getting up field. Once I get that as muscle memory, I'll be good."
In just a few months of working with Quinn, Poe sees why Quinn has established the reputation he has in terms of developing pass-rushers.
Quinn has kept a close eye on Poe since his arrival, making it a point to share his insight with him on a daily basis.
"He has a lot of small things [that he tells us] every day that pretty much works right off the bat," Poe said of how Quinn has been helping him. "The small things that he's telling us, that if we get used to it and do it automatically, we will be alright."
The admiration is mutual between Poe and Quinn.
Not only is Poe already applying with what he's learned from Quinn in the short period of time, the defensive lineman has impressed his coach beyond expectations.
"Honestly, I just try to be another set of eyes for him and Bryant Young and help [provide guidance] so to speak of here's some of the things I saw at practice with your footwork," Quinn said of how he's helped Poe develop his pass-rushing skills. "He's been an excellent addition to us. He'll be a significant factor for us."
Between Poe's established presence against the run and his renewed focus on getting to the quarterback, there's no reason to believe Poe won't be an impact player for the Falcons and could potentially have his best season to date.