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Chiefs rookie Tanoh Kpassagnon review: Giant edge?

Sometimes the draft makes you jump up and cheer. For example, when your team trades up to grab your favorite quarterback prospect exactly like you wanted.

Other times, the draft makes you scratch your head and say “huh?” For example, when your team drafts a guy that you have literally never heard of, with a name you can’t pronounce from a school you weren’t aware had football.

Tanoh Kpassagnon would fall into the latter category. But hey, before we get into all that, let’s watch Kpass (that’s what I’m sticking with, or Tanoh) erase a quarterback from existence.

Well that’s fun!

There are a few things that one can learn about Kpass within two seconds of googling him. The first is that he’s essentially a freak of human nature. He’s like a taller, slightly thinner, more shredded Allen Bailey. And honestly, I did not think I would ever type that sentence in my lifetime. He also ran the 40 in 4.83 seconds, which is weird when you’re 6’7 and weigh 289 pounds in my opinion. He’s a genetic monster.

The other thing you find out about him is that it’s tough to find out much about him with regards to film review. There are only two videos of him on Draft Breakdown, and that’s against South Dakota State and St. Francis. The man did not play against powerhouses in college. So you know right away it’s going to be extremely difficult to project what he can do at the pro level.

Of course, at the same time, there are a few small examples of him going up against top players and doing pretty well...

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever actually felt sorry for an offensive lineman before now. You can see that Lamp is just DEFEATED after that snap. Absolutely humiliated. He didn’t even know what to do with himself. Well, apparently he did, because Lamp took his ball and went home after one day at the Senior Bowl.

Kpass, on the other hand, had a very good week at practice as well as a good game, which is the only time we saw him play against good competition in his college career. I went back and watched the senior bowl to track wins, losses, neutral snaps, sacks/hits/pressures, and effective double teams for Kpass. We’ll talk about that in its own section (feel free to skip if you like).

However, one rep (or week) doth not a player make, and the majority of what we can see on Kpass is against subpar competition. Because of that, everything we talk about with regards to him is going to center around potential and physical traits. For starters, he’s got surprising speed around the edge for a guy his size.

It’s tough to tell because, again, the quality of competition is bad, but Kpass seems pretty comfortable rounding the edge and will even show some bend at times to shorten his route to the quarterback. That’s really encouraging, as guys his size can rarely show the flexibility to turn the corner sharply.

Kpass also has freakishly long arms and what appear to be pretty heavy hands. When he uses them effectively, he’s able to beat offensive linemen pretty quickly.

Again, it’s tough to project how that will look against pro linemen instead of guys from South Dakota State, but there were some snaps where Kpass looked like a man playing against a bunch of junior high players. Which is exactly what you want to see when you’re trying to project a guy jumping from a lower level to the pros.

As a pass rusher, Kpass did not demonstrate very many moves. He was simply bigger, stronger, and much faster than the opposition he faced. I generally only saw bull rushes and rip moves from him, with limited exceptions. His handfighting doesn’t seem to have been developed much at all (though when he shows it, like in the GIF above, he seems to have the natural gifts to be very effective at it). He was able to rack up sacks and tackles for loss against inferior competition in large part because of physical gifts rather than any sort of refinement. Whether he can have success in the pros is a guessing game at this point.

With regards to strength, Kpass is interesting. He would go (during the two games I was able to view) for some stretches without doing anything big, but then he’ll just decide to hulk out and be unstoppable.

That was not effective blocking by the competition he was facing, but ramming your way through three blockers is always, always, always tough to do. And he does it with a fair amount of ease.

That strength would show up against the run as well at times, though it’s tough to take anything away from two games where the competition kept running the ball away from where Kpass was lined up. There’s JUST enough film out there to make you think there are some tools for him to work with in that department.

Kpass doesn’t just absorb that double team and command it, he runs right through it and gets a tackle for loss. That’s a great play (though again, one has to consider the competition) and one that many defensive linemen can’t replicate.

As a run defender, again, Kpass looks like a guy who needs a lot of coaching. As I said above, the raw materials are there. He’s huge and strong, and he has incredibly long arms that SHOULD allow him to keep blockers at arms’ length while he locates the ball. However, he would often get too involved in fighting the guy in front of him and seemingly lose track of the ball entirely. That’s one of the biggest mistakes a defensive lineman can make in run defense, and he’ll need to get that cleaned up before he can set foot on the field.

We’ll talk more about Kpass overall as a prospect, but first let’s discuss the Senior Bowl, his only shot against legitimate pro prospects. We already saw him treat Lamp like a little brother who got out of line, but how did the actual game go for him?

Senior Bowl

So I went back and re-watched the Senior Bowl to chart some things, given that it’s our only glimpse of Tanoh against competition that isn’t, um, questionable. While watching, I tracked pass rush and run defense wins and losses, neutral plays, sacks/hits/pressures, and effective double teams. If you’re not sure what I mean by some of those terms (though they’re pretty self-explanatory), click here.

The Senior Bowl is often a time to look at “stars” from smaller schools (like Kpass) to see how they hold up against vastly superior competition. Dorsey and Reid have a history of looking at players who fare well there, and I personally agree with the idea. There’s significant value in seeing who can perform the best when things like scheme and surrounding talent are somewhat equalized, particularly for a guy like Kpass, who hadn’t seen anything resembling a pro prospect until Senior Bowl week.

You saw above Kpass absolutely wrecking Lamp (a 2nd round pick by the Chargers), and from all Senior Bowl reports I read Kpass had an exceptional week in practice. That’s step one. But how did the game go? Let’s look at the numbers, then talk about the tape.

Pass Rush Wins- 9

Pass Rush Losses- 5

Run Defense Wins- 3

Run Defense Losses- 3

Neutral Snaps- 10

Sacks/Hits/Pressures- 1 sack, 2 hits, 1 pressure

Effective Double Teams- 3

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know what to expect from Kpass going into the Senior Bowl film. Given what I saw from his regular games, I expected to see some flashes but a lot of snaps where he got handled.

Instead, I watched what was by FAR his most consistent performance of the three games I viewed. It’s bizarre. Against the mediocre competition, Kpass would snag a few sacks and perhaps a tackle for loss, but was largely invisible for long portions of the game. In the Senior, Bowl, against easily the best competition he’d ever faced (and more than one future NFL offensive lineman), Kpass was one of the best defensive players on the field.

He got a ton of pressure on the quarterback (nine pass rush wins in a little over half a game is wildly impressive, as are his sack/hit/pressure numbers) on a relatively limited snap count, more than any other player that I noticed. And interestingly enough, he did so with more of a variety of moves than I saw him demonstrate in his other games. While he still leaned on the bull rush (with one or both hands), he also used some rips, a couple of absolutely brutal push-pulls, and even a couple of outside/inside fakes that got quick pressure each time.

There were several tackles who lined up against Kpass, and none of them had consistent success. His combination of speed (his first step and closing speed really is startling) and strength often times made their own footwork or punch irrelevant, as he closed the space between them too quickly for the tackle to get set.

Against the run, this was the first game I got to watch Kpass play where the other team didn’t deliberately run away from his spot consistently, so that was nice to see. While he had a few losses, two of those were plays in which he was indecisive when trying to figure out if the QB was going to hand the ball off or not. Both of those plays were in the first half, by the way. In the 2nd half he did a better job of closing on the play quickly rather than hesitating.

Generally speaking, against the run Kpass demonstrated why guys who are 6’7 and 290 pounds with freakishly long, strong arms are a pain to look out for in the running game.

When Kpass was aggressive with his hand usage and got them in their proper spot, his combination of length and strength prevented any of the tackles from being able to drive him up the field. Instead, he was able to rock his blockers backward multiple times and did a really, really nice job setting the edge all game long.

Overall, the defense took a marked step back when Kpass was off the field. And it didn’t go unnoticed. On the final drive of the game, the opposing team was going for a chance to tie or win. During that particular drive (when the competitive juices for both sides were clearly coming out), Kpass didn’t come off the field for his team and saw increased attention (in the form of several double teams) from the opponent. Additionally, when the opposition went for 2 to try and win the game, their coach called a roll out for the QB in the opposite direction of Kpass, who had been creating pressure throughout the drive (and the game). You could tell who they were worried about messing with their shot at a win, and it wasn’t the defenders from bigger football schools.

Watching this game you could easily see why Dorsey took a shot on a guy who was able to physically dominate future potential pros despite limited coaching.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day I’m still not sure what I think of Kpass being drafted in the second round. I felt like there were a LOT of other players on the board with a greater chance of helping the team this season, and I still feel that way.

Kpass’s college tape is interesting in that you would expect a guy with his physical attributes to dominate even more than he already did. While he put up good numbers, he wasn’t consistently overwhelming offenses on a snap-by-snap basis. That’s concerning when you consider how low the quality of competition was. However, it’s at least worth noting that during the two games I watched teams were clearly scheming around Kpass. They very often sent extra blockers his way and rarely ran in his direction. It’s just weird tape to watch, and I genuinely don’t know how much you can gather from it outside some physical traits.

The Senior Bowl tape is very interesting in that it shows how Kpass is able to stand out among future potential pros despite the handicap in coaching. However, it’s just one week of practice and a single game. Tough to take anything concrete from that.

One thing I DO know is that the Chiefs definitely plan on using Kpass as a 5-tech or even a guy who lines up wide 9, given what he’s said during interviews.

Given what I’ve seen from Kpass I think this is the correct move. He played a DE in a 4-3 the entire game at the Senior Bowl, and the vast majority of his best snaps in regular games came when he lined up across from or outside the shoulder of the LT/RT. I don’t see a guy who should be sliding inside, at least right now.

If anything, Kpass really plays like a freakishly oversized 3-4 OLB, minus the ability to drop into coverage (which is, well, kind of a big deal in Sutton’s defense, but it’s not like Tamba is doing a ton of it). I think his best shot at getting snaps this next season will be rushing from the edge in nickel and dime sets. He may be able to get after the QB a little bit in those situations, though only time will tell.

With Kpass, it’s all about trying to gauge how quickly he’ll soak up coaching regarding hand usage, ball location (especially against the run), and various techniques to shed blockers. Based on his film he didn’t get a ton of this in college, and all of that needs to be improved or (I think) he’ll be a liability on the field.

With guys like that you never know how it’ll turn out. He could soak it up like a sponge and make an impact in 2017. He could just completely bust and never put it all together after a college career of relying on physical gifts. I’m definitely concerned it’ll be the latter, given his lack of dominance against inferior competition, but watching the Senior Bowl definitely made me a bit more optimistic.

I just don’t know. The good news is he’s going to get a quick education at the hands of a DL coach who has brought along multiple guys very quickly, as well as a pair of tackles in Schwartz/Fisher who aren’t going to take it easy on the rook. It’ll be very fun to see how he responds.

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