The Buffalo Bills’ coaching staff has made it clear that they want to dictate games with a strong rushing attack. Last season, the team ranked 2nd in that department, while leading the league in carries, rushing the ball 37 more times than the Philadelphia Eagles, who finished 2nd in that department.
While upgrading a unit that finished 2nd in the league usually doesn’t sit atop the list of priorities heading into an offseason, the Bills did just that, signing veteran guard Chris Williams, trading for Bryce Brown and using their 2nd round draft pick on Cyrus Kouandjio, an All-American tackle from Alabama.
Kouandjio was widely viewed as a first round pick ever since he started for the Crimson Tide, but injury questions surrounding his knee caused him to fall to pick No. 44, where the Bills didn’t hesitate to select the mammoth offensive tackle.
Kouandjio, who played left tackle throughout his collegiate career, was selected with the expectation of surpassing veteran right tackle Erik Pears by opening day.
What Does Cyrus Kouandjio Bring to the Buffalo Bills?
Cyrus Kouandjio is a big, powerful athlete, standing 6’6” and weighing 322 pounds. His 35 5/8” arms were the second longest among the 50 offensive linemen in attendance at the 2014 NFL Combine, and allow him to get his hands inside the pads of defenders.
Despite putting up average numbers at the combine in most of the drills, including a subpar 21 bench reps, the 2nd lowest of all offensive lineman, Kouandjio has incredible “functional strength” on the field. He possesses the bulk and lower body strength necessary to “anchor” in pass protection, while generating enough power and explosion off the snap to drive defenders backwards when run blocking.
Always getting a push in run https://t.co/YpoAAHnVQ5
— Rob Quinn (@RQUINN619) July 12, 2014
Kouandjio is a tenacious and nasty offensive lineman that plays with the clichéd “high motor,” and you’ll always see him play to, and beyond, the whistle on every snap. It speaks to the type of competitor and tough player that he is, by playing for two seasons on a knee that may have not been properly repaired.
Upon selecting Kouandjio, General Manager Doug Whaley broke down his projected role, stating:
Prototypical right tackle. Very aggressive run blocker, people are going to say that against smaller defensive ends he had some trouble. He’s not going to be playing against 6-2, 190 pound defensive ends in the NFL so we’re comfortable he’ll be able to protect the right side. We’re excited about his size and his length and what he may lack in a little foot quickness, he’ll make up in length and make them take a bigger arc to get to the quarterback.
Kouandjio tore both his ACL and MCL in his left knee, which is huge for a left tackle, as it’s the leg he plants, and withstands the most pressure in his kick slide. As a result of the injury, Kouandjio’s pass protection was inconsistent in college, as he failed to maintain balance and stay square when blocking edge rushers at times.
On the other hand, for such a large athlete, Kouandjio has nimble feet that allow him to “mirror,” or stay in front of defenders. He has developed a notorious “slap” move, that has made some poor defensive ends fodder for social media memes
While still raw in pass protection, he possesses the requisite movement skills and athleticism to improve this aspect of his game.
When running the ball, there probably wasn’t a tackle from the 2014 NFL Draft not named Greg Robinson that you want on your offensive line more than Kouandjio. Kouandjio shows incredible explosion and power off the ball, consistently getting proper hand placement on defenders and driving them backwards.
Kouandjio is a bully in the bully in the run game. Good drive https://t.co/YqJtSyLU9v
— Rob Quinn (@RQUINN619) July 12, 2014
Kouandjio also shows the ability to keep his feet moving and really does a good job staying in-between the ball-carrier and the defender. He consistently gets to the second level and shows a Cordy Glenn-like desire to lay the wood on linebackers and even safeties.
It’s clear when watching tape that Kouandjio loves run blocking the ball. He latches on and blows back defenders to the point where, at times, he won’t even be near the pile.
2014 Season Outlook
Heading into training camp, there’s absolutely no reason to doubt that, barring injury, Kouandjio will be the team’s starting right tackle from opening day. He’s simply bigger, stronger and more physically gifted than incumbent starter Erik Pears, who’s already showing decline in his play.
Whaley had this to say about Kouandjio’s chances of starting following his selection:
“We expect him to be contributing early. Opening day? Not sure. I can’t put a timetable on it; it depends on how he comes in and grasps the offense. Your first and second round picks have to contribute early and even your third. That’s the way we attack the draft”
Kouandjio will obviously be pushed by the coaching staff to compete with guys like Chris Hairston and Seantrel Henderson, but for a team that wants to be identified with a strong run game, the future looks bright for Cyrus.