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Long expects to be different player his second year
Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2009
When Chris Long says his goal is to "take this year and not recognize the guy from last year," he's not referring to the new handlebar mustache he wore at a recent OTA practice or the lion's head he had tattooed on his back a couple of months ago.
No, the Rams defensive end is talking about ratcheting up his performance from his rookie season. Long started all 16 games last season and had 57 total tackles, four sacks and 16 quarterback pressures. Those were solid numbers. But he is striving to do better.
"I'm always unhappy with the way I play at the end of a year, because I feel like you learn so much it's only natural you want to get better," said Long, the second overall pick in the 2008 draft. "That's what I'm working toward. That should be your goal every year. As long as you can physically get better, I think that's your responsibility.
"My technique is something I've got to improve on big-time. I need to improve my consistency. Pass-rushing angles, adding moves. The list goes on."
This time last year, Long was moving at a tentative tempo on the practice field. He was just beginning to make the transition from a 3-4 end at Virginia to a 4-3 end in St. Louis. Now, he is playing at a much quicker pace.
"The biggest thing is you have a full offseason to work," Long said about being a veteran. "As a rookie, you started about a month ago whereas I've been working since March. Ö I still make mistakes out there, but that's part of learning. At least now when I make a mistake, I'm going fast."
Long's internal motor usually runs at a high rpm. Sometimes, that got him in trouble as a rookie.
"A lot of times, he'd be moving and actually taking himself out of position to make plays," said Seahawks director of pro personnel Will Lewis. "As the season progressed and he became more comfortable with the scheme, he sat in there a little bit better, controlled his gap responsibility a little more and got better at finding the ball."
Long (6-3, 263) has spent some time increasing his strength during the offseason.
"I know our strength coaches have been happy with the progress that he's made in the weight room," defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. "Just getting his body another year stronger so to speak."
As a consequence of the Rams' 2-14 record last season, a lot of changes were made. There's a new head coach (former Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo). There are new coordinators (Pat Shurmer and Flajole). There's a new offense (West Coast) and a new 4-3 defense (more aggressive with more blitzing).
"It's a lot different," Long said of Spagnuolo's defense. "We've watched probably six or seven teams" ó including the Giants, Eagles and Panthers ó "just learning about this defense. They're all successful defenses, so I feel like if you just trust what the defense is teaching you to do, you'll be successful."
As for how his role has changed in the new defense, Long said, "I feel like I'm doing even more. I felt last year like I was lucky enough to be versatile, and this year I'm able to be even more versatile."
Long hasn't focused solely on football this offseason. He spent some time in Charlottesville, Va., hanging out with "my boys" who still play football at Virginia. He and his girlfriend also went to the Virgin Islands for a week.
"That was cool. My first beach trip in a long time," Long said. "I'm afraid of the ocean, but once I got in I didn't get out. You get to swim with sea turtles. I saw a six-foot barracuda swim right past me. For a second, I thought it was going to eat me."
While he was in Charlottesville, Long got the lion's head tattoo. Above it is the word "Pride."
"I've always been fascinated with lions," Long said. "They're the best animals in the world. "They're the kings of the jungle, man."
This could be the season Long becomes a big cat himself.
Re: Long expects to be different player his second year
God I love Chris. He's everything you could possibly want in a franchise pass rusher. No doubt he gets double digit sacks this year. Let's see him install some of that "pride" into the rest of the defense as well!
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