With starting left guard Shawn Lauvao struggling and battling injuries, it’s understandable that many fans were excited to see second year man Arie Kouandjio get some more action in a starting role. I highlighted Kouandjio’s play earlier this season after the game against the Cleveland Browns here, which I recommend you read before you read this one. If you don’t feel like reading it, his performance in that game, in a nut shell, was lackluster and in my opinion didn’t show the qualities of a starting offensive lineman in the NFL. Did he improve at all from that game to this game against the Philadelphia Eagles? The answer to that question is unfortunately…no. But don’t take my word for it! Look at the film:
Kouandjio does not display great strength and balance very often, which is disappointing because he’s obviously a very big and strong man (6’5 325, listed on the Redskins website). Part of his problem is he doesn’t play with good technique consistently.
In this play early in the game, Kouandjio gets caught off guard by defensive tackle Bennie Logan and gets tossed to the ground. I’m willing to give Kouandjio a slight pass on this play because Logan did get a nice jump on the snap, but even so, you can’t get tossed like a rag doll like that.
Later in the game the Redskins run a trap look with left tackle Trent Williams serving as the trap puller. Kouandjio on this play is tasked with cutting off the A gap from the man across from him. Instead of holding his ground, he gets driven back into the hole running back Rob Kelley was trying to run through. Kouandjio comes out his stance too high, his man is lower and gets leverage making it easy to drive him back. Not to be cliche but the low man wins, almost every time. If Kouandjio gets even a little push or at least holds his ground, there was a decent hole for Kelley to run through. Instead, he gets driven back right into Kelley’s lap.
What would help Kouandjio in playing stronger is playing low and with knee bend. Playing with a nice wide base and with low knee bend is key as an offensive lineman, especially in pass protection. This is one of Kouandjio’s biggest weaknesses. The best example to show of this is on the big touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson:
Here he matches up one on one with Bennie Logan. What’s wrong with this rep is his technique. Watch Kouandjio’s hips and legs on this play. He’s standing straight up with his legs locked and ends up almost getting completely bent over backwards. I don’t know about you but that hurts my back just looking at it. What would’ve helped him do better is if sunk his hips and bent his knees with a wide base. That is key to having balance and power in your stance and to not get driven back so far. What’s crazy is that this play is almost the exact same rep that he had against the Cleveland Browns. Check this out:
Both of those plays side by side look the exact same. He’s standing straight up with his legs locked and getting bent over backwards, the Eagles clip is a little worse though.
These are all of the things Kouandjio is struggling with most. He’s got to realize that he’s not playing for Alabama anymore and that the guys he’s playing against now are just as strong if not stronger than he is. Because of that, he really has to buckle down and work on his technique. Technique makes all the difference. Which leads me to…
Before I get to this, let me explain that I don’t like to bash anyone. My mission with these film reviews is to point out player’s strengths and weaknesses, not to bash. So please do not take this article as such. With that out of the way, I want to highlight the good things Kouandjio did in this game, because it shows the kind of player he can be when the light bulb goes off.
Kouandjio takes on Logan again one on one but this time he does a great job of locking him down. What’s different this time is his knees. He has more of a knee bend this time which allows him to anchor against Logan’s bull rush. While he’s still not playing as low as I’d like, you can see what the slightest bit of proper technique can do.
On this play, the offensive line is in a half man-half slide protection scheme with the slide going to the right side. Kouandjio is tasked with taking on Fletcher Cox. While his strike is way too high and he misses on the punch, he manages to adjust and use Cox’s leverage against him for the pancake. Nice heads up play by Kouandjio.
The potential is there, folks, but frankly I’m of the opinion that he’s still not ready for the big leagues. I think he still needs another offseason to work on his craft. If Lauvao is still unhealthy I wouldn’t be in favor of him starting in his stead. Assuming Spencer Long is healthy I’d be more in favor of backup center John Sullivan switch out to left guard. Sullivan is a solid veteran offensive lineman and has played guard before. No, I don’t want to bump Long out to left guard. Long is the center of the present and future and should continue to grow there, he can’t do that playing at left guard.
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