When the Buffalo Bills open 2015 training camp in a little under six weeks, Cyrus Kouandjio will be the first-team right tackle, based on comments made by head coach Rex Ryan at the close of the team's mandatory minicamp.
"Well, I think the work that Cyrus has done overall in the offseason probably puts him ahead (of Seantrel Henderson) right now. But again, the race isn't over by a long shot, so we'll see," Ryan told reporters on Thursday (via Syracuse.com).
That last is an important hedge for Ryan to make, given that neither of his current right tackle options have proven much at the NFL level. It might be why Ryan is so eager to sign 34-year-old right tackle Wayne Hunter, who has been out of football for two years.
The biggest takeaway, however, is that Henderson and Kouandjio are trending in opposite directions from where they ended their rookie seasons. A second-round pick out of Alabama facing high expectations, Kouandjio flamed out spectacularly last summer, not coming close to earning a starting job and then spending the overwhelming majority of his rookie season on the inactive list. Henderson, meanwhile, started 16 games - and while he did not necessarily play well (a widely accepted fact disputed by a small crowd headlined by Doug Marrone), he certainly flashed the athletic traits necessary to hold his own in the pros.
Now, however, Henderson has fallen behind Kouandjio, who has arguably had a better offseason in terms of net gain than any other Bill. Kouandjio has consistently received first-team work through spring practices, and that included a full week's worth of first-team run at this week's mandatory minicamp.
"Seantrel has got to show that he can handle it, you know, mentally, physically, all of it, and then get out here. Obviously he's a guy that started 16 games last year, so I think competition is going to be good," Ryan explained. "Kouandjio has got to show that when the pads come on, that he can handle the physical aspect of the game."
Time will tell who ultimately will start opposite Cordy Glenn at left tackle on opening day (against Robert Mathis, pending his injury recuperation), but it's clear at this point that entering training camp, Kouandjio has the upper hand.