If you summed up Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley's offseason plan in a single sentence, only one option would come to mind: Go big or go home.
With the sale of the Bills looming, Whaley is fighting to impress the new owner, whoever it may be, and keep his job.
No area more clearly illustrates Whaley's mantra than how he looked to upgrade Buffalo's offensive line. Whaley brought in one lineman in free agency and picked up three more during draft weekend. Guard Chris Williams arrived from St. Louis, and Cyrus Kouandjio, Cyril Richardson and Seantrel Henderson all had their dreams come true when Buffalo drafted them.
All of EJ Manuel's newest bodyguards have one thing in common: They shop in the big and tall section.
They are so big, in fact, that the Bills are now working with the biggest offensive line in the NFL, per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News, citing research by ESPN's Mike Rodak. The big bodies up front are on average 6'5" and 325 pounds.
Talk about beefing up.
After the Bills gave up the fourth-most sacks in the NFL last year, an upgrade up front was clearly in order. Cordy Glenn is locked in at left tackle, but the right tackle spot is up for grabs, and a few players will be vying for the starting gig.
Incumbent starter Erik Pears will be competing with Kouandjio and Chris Hairston, who missed all of last season with an injury.
Who is going to end up landing the job? The smart money is on Kouandjio.
To start, the Bills' running shoes get a lot of wear. The team was second in the NFL last year in rushing yards per game, and no one ran more running plays per game than the Bills. Kouandjio is making no secret that the Bills will continue that trend this year.
"We runnin' that rock, I can tell you that," Kouandjio told Skurski.
Pounding it on the ground is something Kouandjio is familiar with, and he's had success in that department. Kouandjio was on the All-SEC First Team this past year, and his Alabama Crimson Tide ranked 25th in the country in rushing yards per game and eighth nationally in yards per attempt.
The SEC continually restocks the NFL with elite defensive talent. Kouandjio performed impressively in college football's premiere league, preparing him to have success at the next level.
And Kouandjio clearly has the size and strength to make an impact at the NFL level.
Of course, Kouandjio won't be throwing NFL defensive ends around like that, but if he gets matched up against a smaller linebacker or a defensive back, he can easily throw them aside.
Kouandjio's on-field talent is surpassed only by his off-field mentality. The Cameroonian tackle expected to be taken in the first round, and when Buffalo finally chose in him the second, he was visibly frustrated.
Cyrus Kouandjio: "Me going in the second round to a place like #Buffalo is perfect. It sparks something in me"— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) May 13, 2014
Kouandjio told Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News that slipping into the second round "sparked a fire" in him. "It’s that fire, that will to push myself past my boundaries, to do anything, just to prove people wrong," Kouandjio said.
It sure doesn't hurt having a player as skilled as Kouandjio playing with a chip on his shoulder.
With Hairston's status still up in the air, the right tackle battle will most assuredly come down to Pears and Kouandjio. Pears is entering his 10th year in the league, and since the Bills brought in both Kouandjio and Henderson, his hold on the starting spot is anything but solid.
Considering Kouandjio's talent and motivation, he will be able to give Pears a run for his money. If everything goes according to Whaley's plan, Kouandjio will be hearing his name with the starting lineup this fall.