Tanoh Kpassagnon isn’t like you and me. And I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s a different kind of human being. I mean that in the sense that he is absolutely not a human being.
That is a being who weighs 290 pounds and yet has less body fat than... well, a lot of people who weigh a lot less than 290 pounds. He’s sculpted not in the sense that people normally say it (to described a really ripped person), but in the sense that he literally looks like he’s a sculpture and can’t possibly be real.
Because of this, it’s tough to not have high expectations for Tanoh, especially when you hear coaches gush over his athleticism and you see him lined up everywhere from over the center to outside linebacker. It’s ridiculous.
All that said, Tanoh is a player who comes from a small school and has not received high-end instruction on the finer points of football until being drafted. That’s the flip side of the coin: he’s really a total unknown. And so, with Tanoh seeing the field against another professional football team for the first time last Friday, it’s time to try to get to know him a little better.
If you’ve never read a film review by me about a defensive lineman, here’s a good “this is what I do” introduction. In short, I go through every snap charting wins, losses, neutral plays, pressures/hits/sacks, and effective double teams. Simple, right? Well, let’s talk Tanoh.
If you’re looking for some context, take a look at the Chris Jones film review here to see how Jones did (against starting NFL talent, mind you) in his rookie season. It’s... well, it’s different.
Now let’s be clear, Jones had a very, very good rookie season, so that’s a tall task for a rookie to try and even be close to what he did. The only reason I bring him up is that I’ve had more than a few people compare Kpass to Jones when talking with me about him, and I think it’s important we differentiate between the two. Jones was wrecking guys in preseason when he went against second and third teamers. Kpass, though flashing some talent, is not. Jones demonstrated freakish in-game strength and handfighting that allowed him to throw aside OL. Kpass isn’t there yet.
Again, I’m not trying to bury Kpass (we’ll talk about his film shortly, and there are good things), but based on what I saw against the Niners, he’s got some work to do. His win percentage is significantly lower than I’d like, and his loss percentage is significantly higher than I’d like. He did manage to force some effective double teams, which was good, but he didn’t notch so much as a pressure all night (at least not a play I’D call a pressure). When you consider the fact that he was playing against non-starters, it’s clear that there’s some work to do here.
But let’s talk about good things on film, shall we? Because Kpass absolutely demonstrates some traits that make you go “hmmm.” For starters, at times he’s freakish quick off the line, and not just for a guy his size.
Kpass flashes an absolutely abnormal burst off the line for a man his size (or even a much smaller guy). Freakish. But it's not consistent. pic.twitter.com/C3cjAsuIoB— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 15, 2017
There were a few snaps where Kpass just blew right past the guard he was lined up opposite from. His natural strength creates a difficult situation for an offensive lineman in those situations because you can’t block him effectively when you’re not in front of him. It’s not consistent at this point, but you can see why the coaches are trying him out at OLB. He legitimately has the first step to succeed there. He doesn’t just have a fast first step for a guy his size, he has a fast first step for any OLB.
Kpass has good length (anyone who is 6’7 and has 35 5/8” arms is, again, barely human) and some strength to go along with it. When he’s got his hands properly situated and doesn’t let offensive linemen get inside his pads, he demonstrates the ability to move where he wants regardless of the blocker. He just needs to learn to sustain it.
Some raw material length and strength to keep the OL off him initially. Doesn't sustain, but strong enough to work down the line to help. pic.twitter.com/RtwbCLGTae— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 15, 2017
This is a pretty good run defense snap from Tanoh, but it would be markedly improved if he were able to keep the offensive line at bay while moving down the line. Is that picky? Well, yes and no. On one hand, we’re downgrading a definite win in run defense, but on the other hand it’s important for sustained success to be able to keep the blocker off your body. A first string offensive lineman might not be so movable once he’s inside your pads.
Tanoh is genuinely interesting to watch on the field, because you can see the raw physical traits that have the coaches excited about him. He’s huge, and doesn’t look out of place lining up along the interior defensive line. At the same time, he moves quick enough off the snap (I’ll need to see more of him in coverage to figure that out) that he also looks pretty at home rushing from outside the tackles. The Chiefs moved him basically anywhere you can line someone up, and it appears they’re trying to figure out where he can be most effective early. He isn’t as comfortable standing at the snap as he is in a 3-point stance, but with reps that should come.
Now, onto the bad... let’s start with a GIF that has some good AND some bad, and thus ease the transition (you’re welcome)
Some good and bad in one gif. Fantastic get-off at the line, good strength to move center, but doesn't track the ball at all and RB runs by pic.twitter.com/doTG359sWS— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 15, 2017
Here, Tanoh fires at the snap too fast for the LG to help the C (he whiffs entirely) before heading to the second level. That’s good. He also uses his natural strength and oddly good pad level (considering his height, that’s interesting) to shove the center backwards, and there’s real promise of a blown-up run play here.
Unfortunately, that promise never comes to pass, as Tanoh’s head is down and he’s not aware of where the runner is. This allows said runner to go right past him, and all the good above gets wiped away.
That’s a good representation of a problem Tanoh has when engaging blockers... it’s like he gets in his own head and can’t quite multitask at this point. It could be that he was so used to winning with his natural gifts that he didn’t need to learn to concentrate on handfighting AND watching the ball AND maintaining his feet (another issue he has when engaged, he gets off balance too easily). Whatever the reason, he needs to clean that up before he’ll be a consistently good run defender.
And speaking of handfighting, that’s definitely an area (along with pass rush moves) that Kpass is going to need some work. How much work? I don’t know. What I do know is that when he wasn’t winning with speed/strength/length, it didn’t work out well for him against the Niners.
Kpass doesn't seem to know what to do yet when his natural speed/strength/length don't win. Needs to work on countermoves. Or just moves. pic.twitter.com/mWEDV999OH— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) August 15, 2017
Look, this isn’t some condemnation of Kpass’s future as a pass rusher. He absolutely flashes incredibly rare physical traits (his combination of size, burst and length is ridiculous. Genuinely ridiculous). But he definitely needs some honing as a pass rusher before his considerable physical gifts become more than just that: flashes.
So all this may sound a bit discouraging, especially if you were hoping that Kpass would contribute to the pass rush this year. Here’s one thing I’ll say that gives me hope that he’ll be a quick learner. Early in the game Kpass got overpowered at the goal line because his pad level was way too high. The very next snap, the blocker tried to roll over him in similar fashion, only this time Kpass was ready and got underneath the lineman (low man really does often win) and held his ground.
The fact that from one snap to the next Kpass addressed the issue (and his pad level was better as a run defender for the rest of the game, interestingly enough) makes me think he’s a guy who will quickly identify and work on traits. The good thing about such a raw player is that he hasn’t really had time to develop BAD habits, and so he’s ready to be shaped. Chiefs defensive line coach Britt Reid has done a fantastic job with the defensive linemen as far as I can tell, so Kpass is in good hands.
This is an extremely fluid situation. With such a raw player, it wouldn’t surprise me to see growth in leaps and bounds. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a pretty quiet rookie year from Kpass in which he sits and learns almost exclusively (given how well RNR and Bailey played on Friday, it’s going to be tough to get snaps along the line this season barring injury). But make no mistake, it’ll be fun to watch.