Kouandjio raising his game at just the right time for Bills

Posted Sep 13, 2016

Cyrus Kouandjio's game has improved considerably in his third NFL season, giving his offensive coaches some peace of mind if Cordy Glenn can't start Thursday night.

When it comes to outside observers the name Cyrus Kouandjio does not elicit a lot of excitement. A second-round pick comes in with high expectations. So when the Alabama product could not earn a starting job in each of his first two seasons with Buffalo, most chalked him up as a depth player. Though Kouandjio still may not have true starter status, his game has advanced to a level where there is confidence that the offensive tackle can capably step in and perform.

His emergence began in training camp and the preseason where Kouandjio had to step in for Cordy Glenn after the left tackle was sidelined with an ankle injury.

“Really I think Kouandjio has been a guy that has really stepped up,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “I mean he did a tremendous job at left tackle for us, filling in for Cordy Glenn, and he’s starting to play really well. I thought Kouandjio had an outstanding training camp.”

When Glenn left last Sunday’s game in the second quarter, Kouandjio stepped back in as he had for all of the preseason. He logged 28 snaps, more than half the play count on the offensive side of the ball and held his own.

“I thought Cyrus played well,” Ryan said. “He got beat one time inside that I can recall off hand, but I thought Cyrus played pretty decent.”

Helping Kouandjio were all the live reps he got through the course of the preseason as Glenn never appeared in a preseason game this summer. Kouandjio may now be called upon again to start in place of Glenn on Thursday night. Suffice to say he feels ready.

“I’ve been playing left (tackle) the whole preseason,” Kouandjio told “So Thursday night I should be fine.”

“I think he’s really improved coming through the preseason,” said offensive coordinator Greg Roman. “(Week 1) was just an opportunity for him to get real game action in a real league game. That’s beneficial.”

Kouandjio and his fellow line mates are also wholly familiar with a Jets defensive front that caused major problems for the Cincinnati Bengals last Sunday. New York’s front seven had seven sacks, the most ever given up by the Bengals in a single game.

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Add in the fact that the Jets reached that figure without starting DL Sheldon Richardson, who returns from a one-game suspension this week, and the performance is even more impressive.

“We have a lot of work to do and we’ve got to look at what we’re doing and asking our guys and come up with something,” said Ryan. “This defense that we’re getting ready to play is as talented as there is in the league. You’ve got Sheldon Richardson coming back and Big ‘Mo’ (Muhammad Wilkerson) coming back. So it’s a talented team, there’s no doubt about that.”

Nevertheless Kouandjio has appeared to find a comfort zone at left tackle, more so than in his time at right tackle, where his balance just seemed off at times in pass protection. His play has been far more consistent playing on Tyrod Taylor’s blind side.

“I don’t remember right (tackle) because I haven’t been over there in a while,” Kouandjio said. “There’s a little muscle memory on the left from all those college years (at left tackle). I just work hard at it. Nothing is just given. There is a little bit of muscle memory, but that’s nothing major to how you play.”

Even though Kouandjio has clearly benefited from all the playing time he received through the course of the preseason at left tackle, he didn’t get many of those reps with starting LG Richie Incognito. The veteran guard was sidelined with a rib injury and played sparingly in the preseason.

Stepping in last week however, Kouandjio felt developing an on field rapport with Incognito came easy.

“I’m fortunate enough to work with an old vet and sometimes he even tells me what I’m doing when I don’t even need it,” he said of Incognito. “He’s very good at communicating. He knows what he’s doing inside and out. He’s been doing it for a long time. It makes you feel a little bit more comfortable playing next to a vet.”

Kouandjio credits the veterans in the offensive line room for helping him bring his game along on the mental side and believes it’s helped him perform better physically.

“The game is a little bit slower for me. I’m able to pick things up faster. I’m able to focus,” he said. “Being around the pros like Richie and Eric Wood, they teach you how to sit down during film study and what to look for and truly dissect things. You’ve got a guy like Cordy Glenn in front of you where you can actually learn from one of the best tackles in the league. It’s just a great situation to succeed in.”

So where does Kouandjio believe he’s made the biggest strides with his game?

“I think my game overall as a whole is better,” he said. “I’m able to control my body more. I’m able to focus and do what the coaches tell me to do.”

Should he get the start in place of Glenn on Thursday night, Kouandjio knows that prime time coverage will feature Buffalo’s offensive line against the Jets highly publicized defensive front. But that’s not his focus.

“I personally try not to think about the atmosphere,” he said. “I like to practice hard and go out there and play hard during the game. It’s awesome that we’ll be able to play on national TV and show the world what we’re made of and I think it’s a great opportunity to do that.”