Arie Kouandjio is no stranger to battling for playing time, and the second-year guard expects to be more involved heading into this season with the Redskins.
Throughout his football career, Washington Redskins guard Arie Kouandijo guard has had to fight for playing time.
During his freshman year at Alabama, Kouandijo was redshirted and did not get a starting job until his junior season. Eventually being drafted by the Redskins in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, Kouandjio started from the bottom once again.
As a rookie, the 6-foot-5, 325 pounder appeared in just three games. Now entering his second NFL season, Kouandjio is doing whatever it takes to get back into a position of playing time.
He's taken up boxing as a method to help with his handwork, ensuring he's quick enough to get his hands up well before an opposing defensive linemen beats him to the punch.
"I started last year down at Skyy Boxing in Tuscaloosa, home of the Bronze Bomber, Dante Wilder," Kouandjio said. "I started that last year, just kind of for fun. Me and my brother [Cyrus Kouandjio] used to go up there and do it for fun and stay in shape. But then after last season, I kind of saw where my punching and targeting was a little bit off and I kind of had it in my mind that in the offseason I am going to take up some boxing on a more consistent basis, and that's what I did."
While Arie is older than Cyrus, the Buffalo Bills tackle has been the NFL longer, as he was selected in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The brothers help "keep each other's morale up" as both try to become full-time NFL starters.
"I lean on him," Kouandjio said. "We play two different positions. There are similarities, but there are some different things and obviously [offensive line] coach [Bill] Callahan is not his coach, so we do different things."
Check out these photos of Alabama offensive lineman Arie Kouandjio. the Redskins' 112th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Aside from the brotherly love, Kouandijo said he feels "great" going into this season after using his rookie year as a learning experience.
"I already knew what I had to work on from last year," Kouandjio said. "Some things I had to do like work on my hands, work obviously my feet, your feet can always get better and faster. The NFL is a little bit different than college. Just had to improve on stuff I got away with in college."
Kouandjio will squeeze some down time into the next few weeks before heading to training camp, but he'll continue to work out in Alabama in preparation of the upcoming season.
"I am going to try and follow the plan [the coaches] have written up for us as far as when to take break and when not to," Kouandjio said. "I am just going to follow that plan, do the workouts, do some mobility stuff and do some boxing."
When he gets down to Richmond, Kouandjio will be involved in a "great competition" for the starting left guard position along with Shawn Lauvao and Spencer Long, both of whom have started for the Redskins before.
"It's been quality work for Arie, for Spencer and for Shawn, and we continue to get better every day," Callahan said. "The more competition we have, the more exposure these guards get [and] the better we'll be."