Long Working To Bag Sacks
Long Working To Bag Sacks
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
By Nick Wagoner
Nobody places higher expectations on Chris Long than Long himself.
Sure, there is a certain amount of inherent pressure that goes with being the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft. And there’s even more when you are the son of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Howie Long.
Chris Long has never let any of that get to him, though. That’s why, now five games into his second season in the league, Long is focusing on nothing but doing all of the little things that can help make him a better player and in turn make the Rams a better team.
“My role is my role no matter what it is,” Long said. “Spags dictates that role. I am open to embrace any role.”
So far in 2009, Long has been asked to embrace plenty. Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo asks a lot of his defensive linemen, regularly asking them to move around, drop into coverage and react to various offensive packages at the drop of a hat.
It’s all designed to make his linemen more versatile and effective. So far, it’s worked out pretty well for Long. In five games, Long has racked up 22 tackles, tied for most among defensive linemen and tied for fourth on the team in that category.
Long has been instrumental in a greatly improved run defense that only seems to get better with each passing week.
“He is solid,” Spagnuolo said. “He is like a lot of those defensive linemen. They are playing together as a group. There are some things we are going to change along the way, by that I mean scheme-wise, that I think will help him out but we are not at that point yet.”
After a solid rookie campaign in which Long flashed his immense potential but by his own account didn’t play to the level he believed he was capable of, Long like the rest of the defense was asked to learn an entirely new system.
For as hard as it is to learn any NFL defense and adjust to the nuances of playing at the game’s highest level, the educational curve only gets sharper when Spagnuolo is involved.
In each of the five games, Long has come in a rotation behind veterans James Hall and Leonard Little at defensive end. But that doesn’t mean Long isn’t getting a starter’s repetitions.
In total, Long is still get the bulk of the work and he’s playing around 45 or 50 snaps every game. The only difference is he’s doing it in a variety of places.
That means he will alternately sub in for Hall or Little regardless of sides for the majority of his work. But Long can also be seen standing up over an interior offensive lineman in certain packages or even dropping back into coverage like a linebacker in others.
“It’s cool because the more you can do, in the future when I am asked to do anything, I can always embrace a different role,” Long said. “I can say I have done that, I have gotten reps at that. At the same time, you have to work really hard to make sure you are getting enough reps doing what you do and that goes into the film room or a little extra after practice or before practice to make sure you have the little things down.”
For most of last season, Long found himself making the adjustment from end in a 3-4 defense to working as more of an “edge” player as an end in a 4-3.
Although he hasn’t recorded a sack this season, it’s been evident to Long and the coaches that he’s playing at a higher level and improving with each passing week.
“I feel good,” Long said. “Every game, I feel like I learn something and get better. If you look at my tape this year and last year it’s night and day. For me, it’s just to continue to improve on those fundamentals and keep learning and keep playing hard and those things will come. I am not putting them off and saying it’s not important to get those numbers now but I have got be patient. I’m only 24 years old so I am going to work as hard as I can and try to earn what I have been given here.”
Long finished his rookie season with four sacks, with a pair of those coming in one game against New England. That was part of a small flurry of sacks in which Long was regularly getting to or near the quarterback.
Even then, Long was awfully close to getting plenty more sacks, leading the team with 16 quarterback pressures.
To a man, it’s been clear Long has made strides in his second season but that doesn’t mean he refuses to acknowledge the need to get to the quarterback as that’s how all players at his position are often judged.
“It’s our job to rush the quarterback,” Long said. “There are a lot of intricacies to how productive a D lineman can be. You can get close a lot but you really want to get there. I think as an individual I have to get more pressure on the quarterback. That will come if I just continue to work hard. I am going to keep faith and just come to practice and work hard every day trying to improve and just try to help this defense.”
In the meantime, Long is going to continue to work to improve on the Rams’ defensive top priority. The Rams finished last season allowing 154.7 yards per game on the ground. This season, in part because of Long’s stout performance up front, that number is down to 125.8.
And in the first five games of the season, the Rams have allowed just one 100-yard rusher, holding the likes of Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Washington’s Clinton Portis under the century mark.
Should Long and the Rams continue to find success in limiting the run, he remains certain that the pass rush and the sacks will come.
“I think first things first, we have got to stop the run and get people in third down and once we do that we will all get more opportunities,” Long said. “Once you do that, you just have got to add different stuff week to week throughout the year, use different moves in your repertoire and take what’s there.”
Re: Long Working To Bag Sacks
I'll take stuffing the run over sacks any day of the week. The sacks will come. I believe in this kid.
Re: Long Working To Bag Sacks
got to have a Big D to prevent the run