Film study: Tanoh Kpassagnon shows significant growth for Chiefs
By Grant Tuttle
Tanoh Kpassagnon turned some heads during the 2018 preseason. How much has he improved? We discuss what we saw on film in his first two preseasons.
We are all excited to watch real football, but I am dwelling on the preseason just a little longer. With my first film review, I have chosen to watch Tanoh Kpassagnon because of excitement I have seen from groups of Chiefs fans because of the perceived improvement that he has made. Watching the film, one thing is certain: Kpassagnon is not the same player that we saw last preseason.
Standing 6’7, and weighing 289 lbs, it is obvious that Kpassagnon is a physical specimen. With incredible strength, it has never been easy to contain him, but he will be even scarier for offensive linemen in a few years.
After watching every defensive snap of Kpassagnon’s preseason film (which totaled 229 snaps, in case you were wondering.), I know that he has improved in almost every part of his game. However, he is still far from polished. Here is what I saw:
Against the run:
Kpassagnon looks much different in 2018. He looks like he is more confident and decisive, which goes a long way. Take a look at the difference between these two clips:
The first video is from week four of the 2017 preseason. Clearly, the Chiefs drafted a raw player, it is obvious that Kpassagnon is still trying to get his feet under him. He is playing like a rookie defensive lineman. This is likely because he had just switched positions. Becoming an outside linebacker in the NFL means that you cannot hesitate.
If Kpassagnon attacks without hesitation and even holds the running back up just a little bit, the play goes for a much shorter gain. The other defensive players are blocked well, but with a little bit of time, that running lane closes up much faster.
This play is against the Texans in week one of this year’s preseason. After an entire offseason of work, Kpassagnon looks like he is beginning to feel comfortable with his job as the outside linebacker. Here, Kpassagnon is at the top of your screen. He immediately explodes off the ball, initiates contact with the blocker, and extends his arms to create separation. After setting the edge, Kpassagnon dips back inside to assist in the tackle. He may not be on the same level as Justin Houston, but this is definitely an encouraging start to year two.
Against the pass:
This is where Chiefs fans should be excited. While Kpassagnon is better in all facets of his play, he shows the most promise as a pass rusher. Unlike last year, he has had a year of development under Justin Houston and it shows. Look at the difference between these clips:
This is what a lot of pass rushes looked like in 2017 for Kpassagnon. There is very little technique in what he does during this play. Too often in 2017, he tried to out-muscle blockers. On this particular play he lets the tackle get his hands on him first, which makes it impossible to run around him and bend around the edge. So, instead, he decides to just stop and do a slow spin move. This will not get you sacks in the NFL. However, even in 2017, there were signs of promise even without good technique.
In the same game, Kpassagnon shows his athleticism and physical skill set. Again, there was very little form on this play. Instead, he runs right by the tackle and uses his upper-body strength to separate from him. Kpassagnon does not show very much bend around the edge, but manages to get a hand on the quarterback, forcing the sack.
The difference between 2017 and 2018 is night and day. Kpassagnon looks more comfortable and in even better football shape. This is from this preseason:
This play has me more excited than any other play that we have seen from Kpassagnon up to this point. This is a good and formidable pass rushing move. He effectively convinces the tackle that he will use his “go-to” bull-rush, but shows a burst of acceleration back inside. By ducking back inside so quickly, the tackle could not adjust. Had the ball not come out of the quarterback’s hand so quickly, it would have been a very nice sack for Kpassagnon.
And now for everyone’s favorite:
This is more of Kpassagnon flashing more pass-rush moves. This is an effective rip. He tosses the tackle to his side and creates quick separation. By getting his hands on the blocker first, he is able to initiate his rush lane. With a great show of acceleration, Kpassagnon knocks down the arms of the tackle and makes a great sack on Chase Daniel. However, this play was called a penalty. So, it didn’t count. But, it should have. We all know that, right?
What needs more work?
While Kpassagnon appears to be a much easier player to use in real-time defense, there are still a few parts of his game that he needs to improve upon. If Kpassagnon can fix these things, he is a serviceable starter in the NFL caliber of player.
Kpassagnon is huge. When you are 6’7 and weigh 289 lbs, you should not allow smaller guys to push you around. While this play goes for little gain, at the top of the screen, you can see Kpassagnon get held up way too long by the tight end. If he wants to be an effective run stopper in the NFL, he can not be held up by the tight end for that long. He will need to learn to toss that guy to his side and keep separation, using his long arms. Did I mention that he is 6’7? If he watches Justin Houston, he will likely learn how to shed smaller guys faster.
Now against pass-blocking:
This is going to be a continual problem for Kpassagnon: Pad level. It is hard to get low when you are as tall as he is, but in this particular play, he stands straight up in his stance and the lineman uses it against him. While the tackle does not have a great anchor and he is driven back, it is difficult for him to be shed. To be more successful in getting to the quarterback, Kpassagnon will need to show more discipline and lower his pad level.
Tanoh Kpassagnon truly surprised me. I have always liked the idea of him playing considerable snaps because of his size, but I did not think he would be fully capable based off of last year. However, when he caught the attention of fans, I investigated to find that he has improved on mostly everything.
Kpassagnon’s strength is in pass-rushing. He is more effective in this part of his game than newcomer Breeland Speaks. However, I think Speaks is better against the run. Personally, I hope that the Chiefs use him to split reps with Dee Ford. Ford has not been a good run-stopper during his time in Kansas City, and Kpassagnon is better than him in this regard. The Chiefs will likely rotate Speaks, Ford, and Kpassagnon depending on the game situation.