360's Cyrus Kouandjio impresses new coach Rex Ryan
For the Buffalo Bills, "the biggest surprise of the spring," according to ESPN.com, has been Cyrus Kouandjio's use at right offensive tackle with the first-team offense. Why should it be a surprise that a 2014 second-round draft choice from Alabama would line up with the starters? Probably because Kouandjio got on the field for three regular-season snaps as a rookie.
"Every day a guy either gets better or gets worse, and in his department, most days have been arrow-up days," Buffalo offensive line coach Greg Roman told reporters during OTAs.
Last season, Kouandjio had every opportunity to become Buffalo's starter at right tackle. Instead, another rookie, seventh-round draft choice Seantrel Henderson, started every game there.
"Honestly, it was tough," Kouandjio said. "That's the past, you know? I'm not really worried about that. You can't live in the past."
Although he came from one of the top collegiate programs, Kouandjio had an eye-opening experience in his first year in the NFL.
"I learned that you can't mistakes," Kouandjio said. "You've just got to work really hard in the NFL. In college, you could make a mistake here, make a mistake there. You're stronger, faster, smarter than the other guy. You can get away with it. But here, it's professionals. It takes a lot of work, and this is my job."
Kouandjio spent the offseason working out under the guidance of former NFL center LeCharles Bentley with two former Alabama teammates – his brother Arie Kouandjio, who was a fourth-round draft choice of the Washington Redskins in May, and Chance Warmack, who's been a starting guard for the Tennessee Titans since being drafted in 2013.
The results of the offseason work have caught the eye of Buffalo's new coaching staff as the Bills head to minicamp this week.
"In the weight room, we have this kettle-bell walk or whatever where you take the weights and you go for distance, and he outperformed everybody on this team," coach Rex Ryan said. "So to say, 'Have I been impressed by him?' I absolutely have been impressed by him."
The new coaching staff is trying to sort out the Bills' offensive line.
"Right now, he's getting a ton of reps, but there's going to be competition there, no question about that," Ryan said. "He's looked good. He's had a good offseason, so we'll see what happens when the pads come on."
Roman echoed the head coach.
"With him, getting the pads on and seeing how that projects, that's the final test," Roman said. "That's the final exam."