Much to the anticipation of many Redskins fans, Arie Kouandjio got his shot at being a starting player this past weekend against the Browns. While some criticized the move to start him, myself included, many were very excited to see what he could do. “But how did he do, Robbie?” - Great question, I’m afraid my answer isn’t going to be the one you hoped for, however. In all honesty, it was about what I expected based on what I saw of him in camp and in the preseason games. He’s raw and sloppy but the effort and try-hard attitude is there.
One of the biggest problems with Arie’s technique that I saw is that he’s very grabby. He doesn’t do a good job of striking with his hands inside. He comes at his man like he’s trying to hug him. I have a couple of plays that show what I’m talking about:
As you can see on the play above, as Kouandjio goes to reach his man he ends up opening his arms and literally hugs him. This is a poor reach block to say the least, not to mention an easy holding call if the referee saw it. Of course this play is not a running play, it’s a designed quick throw off of play action. Even if it’s not a running play, this is still an aspect of his technique that he has to clean up. There’s more where that came from:
The man that has his hands inside is usually the one who wins the rep and on this play Kouandjio lost. Watch his left arm, he brings it way too outside and ends up holding the back of his jersey. You’re just not able to develop enough power to drive a guy when you’re striking outside his numbers. The defensive tackle immediately gets his hands on Kouandjio’s numbers and is able to lock him out.
Trouble with the Bull
Arie Kouandjio also struggles against power rushers. This is partly due to how high he plays and his struggle with anchoring against the bull rush.
In the play above you can see the defensive lineman getting the better of Kouandjio by simply using the bull rush. What Kouandjio struggles with is getting an anchor to brace against the bull rush. This is due to playing too high, with very little knee bend, and being too much on his toes and doesn’t get all his cleats in the ground. When I say “doesn’t get all his cleats in the ground,” I mean he needs to plant his heel in the ground. Without all your cleats in the ground you have no balance which makes it really hard to defend the bull rush. Later on in the game he continued to struggle against the bull and ends up getting flagged for a hold as you see below:
Same exact thing as the play before. He’s got to play stronger, which brings me to the next segment...
Be the Hammer, Not the Nail
Another one of Arie Kouandjio’s biggest struggles is that he is not the one that delivers the punch when he goes to block people. He catches a lot, meaning taking the hits instead of being the hitter. This stood out the most when he climbed to block linebackers.
On this play, Kouandjio climbs to the linebacker and gets blown back two or three yards. What’s his biggest flaw, boys and girls? If you’ve been paying attention, his first biggest mistake is his hand placement. He goes for the the hug again instead of striking on the numbers of the linebacker. Look at the freeze-frame below, it’s plain as day.
His other problem, and the main reason why he gets knocked back, is because he’s running at the LB with his hips to the sideline. Because he wasn’t able to get his hips square to his man, he had no balance and got knocked back instead of delivering a strong block. In another example that happens later in the game, he gets caught doing the same thing:
Not much else to say really. You just got to play stronger and be more physical. Like the title of this segment said, you got to be the hammer and not the nail.
What I think we all should take from this is that Kouandjio is just not quite up to snuff in being a starting offensive lineman. There was some good, don’t get me wrong, but the technical flaws and lack of physicality is what stood out the most to me and is concerning. I just don’t think he’s quite strong enough. He got knocked around too much for my liking. I will give him credit, however, for playing with a lot of energy and effort. That may be attributed to playing in his first career start. There were a couple of occasions where Kouandjio was the only lineman near the ball at the end of the game, sprinting to help push the pile more specifically. The potential is there and he has the effort and determination needed to reach it, which is something you can’t coach. You either want it or you don’t. Kouandjio wants it, but he’s just not ready yet.