Player Evaluations | Cyrus Kouandjio

If you had told me that tackle Cyrus Kouandjio would start at left tackle for 5 games and play considerable snaps in other games going into the 2016 season, I would have been extremely worried. I’ll admit it. I was not happy when GM Doug Whaley drafted him in the second round of the 2014 draft, mainly because I didn’t believe that he had the feet to be a starting tackle in the NFL.

The improvement in his game over the last few years has been tremendous. More specifically, the jump from year two to three under offensive line coach Aaron Kromer has been particularly eye-catching. Most analysts and fans believe that his improvement is due to the shift from right tackle to left tackle. Some will say his struggles at right tackle had something to do with his surgically repaired left knee (post leg) and how it may hinder his ability to kick slide. However, I’m not so sure that any of those theories are correct, and they may be failing to give credit where credit is due. To me, there’s a simple conclusion that I’ve come to after breaking down several of Cyrus’s games: Cyrus is simply developing as a player.

 

 

The question that I see every week on Twitter is:

I love the idea, and how much money Glenn makes really doesn’t factor into the equation for me. The game has evolved, and right tackles are nearly as important as left tackles. Don’t take my word for it; go follow former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz on Twitter (@geoffschwartz).

Moving Glenn to the right side isn’t something that a person in my position can say is the right move. I don’t have all of the information that the front office and coaches have — especially the tidbit that he struggled because of the long term effects of his surgery. If his struggles are because of that, then fine. Move him. But what I can examine is how well Cyrus has improved his fundamentals as a player, then share my opinion on the hypothetical move to LT.

Do I think Cyrus has improved his run blocking? Yes. His footwork and ability to scoop to the second level are much better.

What I just love is the nastiness he plays with now. He punishes linebacker Jamie Collins on this play.

As we all know, offensive linemen are primarily judged on how well they hold up on an island, 1-on-1 with a pass rusher, so that is what I want to focus on.

From the ‘eye test’ standpoint two things pop up: 1.) His body seems to have leaned out a bit. He doesn’t appear to have the typical ‘mauler’ body frame that he was tagged with when drafted; and 2.) His comfort level at left tackle is beyond evident.

Cyrus Kouandjio 2015 (top) vs 2016 (bottom)

So outside of the eye test where has Cyrus improved? Three areas:

  1. Kick slide
  2. Punch
  3. Pass rush counters

Outside of initial stance is you ask yourself, how is their kick slide? From the right side in 2015, Kouandjio’s kick slide looked slow and very mechanical. By the time the rusher (Chris Clemons) hits his third step on this play, he has already gotten upfield past Cyrus. This causes the tackle to cross his feet. The punch by Kouandjio doesn’t affect the defender, and Clemons gets a hit on EJ.

***For all GIFs, hit play in the bottom right corner, then hit the – sign once. It’ll allow you to watch it in slow motion. This will help you follow more easily.***

In this clip from the left tackle position in 2016, Cyrus’s kick slide seems much more natural. It is very compact, smooth and much quicker than in 2015. He closes the gap, gets his hands inside and makes it look easy.

 

On this play, the defender tries setting him up outside to open up the inside lane. Kouandjio shows a smooth kick slide, then a plant and right handed punch. His feet follow and he keeps a very nice base to stymy the rush by outside linebacker Bud Dupree.

The most impressive part of his game, in my opinion, is his punch. Cyrus has the physical traits of an NFL tackle, he is 6’7″, 322 pounds, has 35 5/8” arms and 10 1/4”  hands. But he didn’t really know how to properly use that size and wingspan before this season. In 2015, he rarely flashed ‘pop’ in his hands. In fact, his punch and hand placement were bad, all around. Cyrus didn’t show the patience that he needed to. In the battle between the offensive and defensive lineman, the first to show his cards or make a move usually loses. On this play, Cyrus is impatient vs. Carlos Dunlap, and he decides to attempt a punch with his right hand. He whiffs, and Dunlap causes the pressure on EJ.

 

In just about every game that he played in this past season, Cyrus landed several effective punches. Here’s one versus Dupree.

I love watching it because it is just like a boxing match.

The right hand punch by Cyrus stuns Collins as he tries to convert the rush inside.

The linemen are continuously countering each others’ moves, and it is quite entertaining.

 

Not convinced? Watch Cyrus unload this punch to James Harrison’s left shoulder.

The strike stops his rush and squares him up to Cyrus. This allows Kouandjio to use his length to keep Harrison at bay.

 

Finally, we come to his ability to counter defenders’ rush moves. As I mentioned before, the battle that between offensive linemen and pass rushers is like a boxing match. It isn’t all physical, though. Cyrus must know the type of rush being presented (e.g. speed vs power). Those rush categories include the bull rush, swim move, rips, clubs and hand slaps, etc.

In 2015, Cyrus was so worried about not getting beat by rushers around the outside that his technique suffered.

Rip move executed by DE Andre Branch

Cyrus does a good job of getting his hands inside, so Branch converts to a rip move. Cyrus stops his feet and doesn’t clamp down on the right arm of Branch to trap him. He should place his left hand on the hip of Branch, then  keep his feet moving and push the defender wide. Instead, his left hand is useless and on Branch’s back.

 

His game versus Chandler Jones was my favorite to watch. Jones has several pass rush moves and the length to match Kouandjio. The former Patriot ended the season fifth in sacks for 3-4 outside linebackers with 12. Here, Cyrus realizes that Jones is about to conduct an arm lift to get by, so he chops Jones down.

 

 

After watching that film how impressed are you with Kouandjio’s development? You can see why many analysts and fans would like to keep him at left tackle. This is an idea I would totally entertain, as long as the issue is that his physical limitations hinder his play at right tackle. Jordan Mills allowed the fourth most total pressures in the NFL with 57, so there is no doubt we need an upgrade there. However, moving your franchise tackle, Cordy Glenn, to the right side has risk in it, as well. To boot, 2017 will be the final year on Cyrus’s rookie contract.

 

Is it worth shifting Glenn to the right side for the year? I don’t think Glenn will have a problem playing over there, but it isn’t guaranteed that he will remain playing at a high level. In 615 snaps this season, Glenn only surrendered one sack and 12 QB pressures, which equates to a pressure every 39 snaps. By comparison, Kouandjio gives up a pressure every 31 snaps.

In the end, only the coaching staff knows whether or not the organization should move Glenn to right tackle. The idea should be explored. I think Glenn is athletic enough to make the transition. Either way, the Bills will still need to augment RT position through the draft and/or in free agency.

There is no doubt that Cyrus and the staff have put in a tremendous amount of work. He was a 20 year old physical specimen when he was drafted, but the young player has worked hard and is developing into what Bills fans hope is a starting tackle in the NFL.


More Cyrus Kouandjio footage:

 

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