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Saints Film Room: Tanoh Kpassagnon is a powerful, raw player who still needs refinement as a pass rusher

Y’all thought Marcus Davenport was a project.

NFL: Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought Marcus Davenport was a work in progress, Tanoh Kpassagnon is on another level.

With ridiculous measurables and athleticism — 4.8 40 yard dash and a 128” broad jump at the NFL Combine to go with a 6’7” and 289 pound body — Kpassagnon had scouts drooling once they first set eyes on him.

He dominated poor competition at Villanova, and was selected towards the end of the second round of the 2017 draft by the Kansas City Chiefs, where he’s spent his last four years.

He had his moments, but was ultimately not re-signed, as he agreed to a two-year, $4,500,000 contract with the New Orleans Saints in March.

With all those physical tools, why wouldn’t the Chiefs want him back? Well, I took a look at some of his tape from last year to see what his flashes looked like, as well as what he needs to improve upon to become a complete player.

Raw Power

As you can see above, the near-290 pounder can just overload tackles at times with his strength and explosiveness. Our very own Ross Jackson spoke — in his article about Kpassagnon — about the guy’s get-off. And it is impressive.

If he catches you off guard and gets a good jump off the snap, he’ll push you to the bleachers.

This is how he causes disruptions in the backfield on passing plays, even if he doesn’t have specific pass-rush moves. Which for the most part, he doesn’t.

Lack of moves or bend around edge

Kpassagnon doesn’t have much to offer right now as a pass rusher when his initial burst or bull rush doesn’t produce a win for him. He has no counter moves, and a weak swim move around the edge that needs improvement.

Him being so tall and large, he doesn’t have the ability to bend around tackles off the edge either. And he played most of his snaps outside of the tackles in KC.

This reflects in the numbers. His pass rush win rate of 7.6% in 2020 ranked T-117th out of 125 EDGEs with 100+ rushes, according to PFF. Since his rookie year in 2017, it’s been 8.9% - 106th out of 111 EDGEs with 500+ rushes.

For comparison, Trey Hendrickson was around 17% last year.

So, he basically just becomes a pocket pusher and a hustle guy on most snaps.

This results in most of his total pressures being pursuit or clean-ups — which depending on how you look at it, can be a negative or a positive.

Clean-up/hustle guy

On the play above, he gets no leverage on the tackle and flares out to chase Justin Herbert for what counts as a pressure. This is a common theme for Kpassagnon.

Of his 73 career regular season pressures, 33 of them are either unblocked pressures or clean-up ones like the play displayed earlier.

And that’s why his PFF grades are so poor. His 50.3 pass rush grade in 2020 was 122th out of 125. And I know some probably think PFF grades are nonsense — and for certain position groups, they aren’t super meaningful — but for pass rushers, their grading processes are pretty sound and indicative of value.

These characteristics are not exactly what you’re looking for in a late-down pass rusher. If he wants to play on obvious passing downs, he needs to put some serious work in over the offseason to refine his game and figure out more effective ways to get to the quarterback.

Part of me would like to see him scoot inside, use his size on the interior and clog some gaps. But either way, he’s still got some improving to do.

Has all the tools to be a dominant run defender

With his frame and build, Kpassagnon can set some mean edges in the run game. He still needs work in diagnosing plays and consistently staying true to the right gaps, but it’s all there for him to be good in that area.

In the play above, you can see him set an edge and get his hands on the ball-carrier, despite a hold by the tackle.

This should be his primary ticket to getting snaps in Dennis Allen’s defense — early downs and run situations. He can be a menace in the Saints’ run defense, which has been one of the best in the league for a few years now.


What do you think of Tanoh Kpassagnon? Let us know in the comments. Make sure you follow Canal Street Chronicles on Twitter at @SaintsCSC, “Like” us on Facebook at Canal Street Chronicles, and make sure you’re subscribed to our new YouTube channel. As always, you can follow me on Twitter @AndrewBell_98.