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An encouraging update on the progress of Tanoh Kpassagnon

Could the second-year outside linebacker make an impact in 2018?

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs-Rookie Minicamp
Tanoh Kpassagnon is a house.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

We last discussed second-year linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon’s chances to make an impact on the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2018 defense back in mid-February.

Kpassagnon, 23, stands at a staggering 6 feet 7 and 280 pounds, but has yet to click in the pros, being so raw coming out of Villanova, which plays in the CAA.

The conclusion I came to at season’s end was that the Chiefs felt Kpassagnon was simply not ready, as evidenced by his non-inclusion in the team’s lone playoff game (Keep in mind Frank Zombo played 52 snaps).

Then, this year, the Chiefs drafted Breeland Speaks with their top pick, No. 46 overall in the second round of the NFL Draft. Asked if Speaks was a more ready prospect than Kpassagnon, general manager Brett Veach basically said yes.

“I do, just because rule number one, the level of competition. The way he plays, I think when we talk about a guy that can line up on the outside and then kick in on the inside, he’s done that. He did that in college if you watch his tape on a lot of that four-down stuff he aligned both on the outside and they kicked him in on the inside. With Tanoh, it was a small school player number one and he was pretty much a defensive end for Villanova. Just kind of dominated that level of play and wasn’t asked to do a bunch of different things. Whereas Breeland in regards to what we’re asking him to do, he’s already done it, number one. Number two, he’s already done it versus a higher level of competition. So we feel like the change and the adjustment should happen obviously more quickly for him.”

That is probably not the most favorable thing to hear if your Kpassagnon, but the Chiefs haven’t given up yet. With Dee Ford still working his way back from back surgery and unable to participate in team drills, Kpassagnon is getting a good look at OTAs.

We asked Chiefs outside linebackers coach Mike Smith about his progress on Thursday and his words were rather encouraging:

“I think he’s making big strides, he really is. We all know TK’s a little raw,” Smith said. “I got an opportunity to work with these outside linebackers the second half of the (2017) season, so they kind of know what to expect, I’ve been working with them for a while. He’s making big strides.”

Then an all-time line from Smith:

“He’s got long arms—he can scratch his ankles standing up.”

More on Kpassagnon:

“He’s just got to get better at using his arms, keeping people off of him. He’s good with steps—same thing with him dropping, he’s getting comfortable with that. But I truly believe this and I say it all the time with these guys around here—TK’s got a really bright future. He’s just got to continue to learn, like all these guys.”

Kpassagnon, like Speaks, and Justin Houston, Dee Ford and Tamba Hali before him, is making the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.

“Everyone in my room has been a 4-3 end at some time in their life, especially college. That’s just how it is, and so to be a 3-4 defense in this system—which I’ve played in this system, I’ve coached in this system before, outside linebackers are asked to do a lot. There is no other position that you’re going to pass rush as much as we do. Obviously, the run stuff—we do everything. It takes a lot of work and studying and I got the right guys in the room to do it.”

Now don’t get me wrong. There is always a lot of coachspeak going on this early in the NFL’s fiscal year, and I get that. But even with that in mind, it seems like Smith is at least optimistic in what the Chiefs have at the position, which includes Kpassagnon.

And it is always a positive when you can flip a weakness (OLB depth) into a strength in the matter of a year.

The Chiefs hope to do just that.

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