Patience is key as Long adjusts
By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Sunday, Aug. 31 2008
The Rams don't want defensive end Chris Long to break bad habits. Just old ones.
After spending his college career in a 3-4 alignment at Virginia, where he
played closer to the center and had two-gap responsibilities, Long is adjusting
to the 4-3 scheme in St. Louis, where he's out on the edge.
"It's a big difference because it's something you've 'repped' the heck out of
all through college," Long said. "You take thousands and thousands of reps.
Thousands of snaps in games. Tens of thousands of snaps in practice, and then
you come here.
"And I've probably only taken about a thousand reps here so far."
Is that all?
At the NFL level especially, football is a game of repetition and technique,
particularly when it comes to line play. Long, the No. 2 overall pick in the
2008 draft, is learning that lesson with each practice, each meeting, each film
study session at Rams Park.
Long's first training camp and preseason actually have been a little easier
physically than he expected.
"The overwhelming thing is not the physicality of it," Long said. "It's the
technique. You have to work on that every day. I'm doing OK. I've just got to
keep chipping away every day."
With a modest 263 pounds on his 6-foot-3 frame, Long is giving up 50 pounds —
or more — on just about every left tackle he faces. And at the NFL level,
quickness and athletic ability aren't enough to get you in the backfield. It's
all about leverage and hand placement, knowing how to counter moves, or exploit
"The big thing with him is he's got to break the habit of when he gets tired or
he's not really sure what to do, he goes back to (3-4 habits)," defensive
coordinator Jim Haslett said. "He goes back to the old techniques. I think once
we break him of that — once he gets through that mentally — he's going to be a
heck of a football player."
When you're drafted as high as Long, expectations are lofty. His production in
the preseason was underwhelming: four tackles in three games, according to
coaches' review of game tape. But Long said he's not frustrated.
"I just work," he said. "I don't get down. I don't get up. I'm pretty
even-keeled. I think that's the way I need to be. Because there's going to be
so many ups and downs to the rookie season. All I can worry about is just
taking care of my business every day."
Besides, Long said he didn't expect to come in "and set the world on fire in
Even so, the coaching staff, and his teammates, can see the promise in Long.
"They're taking baby steps with him," defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "But
you still see some explosion. You still see some hustle. You still see some
playmaking ability. So hopefully, that will translate for him (into success) as
the season goes on."
And from Haslett: "He hasn't had a great opportunity to make a lot of plays. I
think he's a little hesitant right now; he's just not letting it go. But he's
improved since training camp began 100 percent. If he just keeps working at it,
keeps working at it, he's going to be a heck of a player."
Long got close to quarterback Joe Flacco on a couple of occasions in the third
preseason game against Baltimore. But his first NFL sack will have to wait till
the regular season.
"It's good to get around the football, especially around the quarterback," Long
said. "And I think that's something that pass rushers are measured by obviously
— sacks. So I hope to get a few in the near future. I'm just going to keep
working and playing. ... That'll take care of itself."
Despite needing work, Long didn't play in the preseason finale against Kansas
City. Coach Scott Linehan said he initially planned on having Long in the game
for a series or two, but changed his mind after the 1½-hour weather delay at
"I didn't know if (playing) six plays or eight plays was going to make a big
difference," Linehan said. "I think a half might have (made a difference), but
we weren't going to do that."
So Long's next action comes in the regular-season opener against left tackle
Tra Thomas and the Philadelphia Eagles. Thomas (6-7, 335) has started 149
regular-season games and is a three-time Pro Bowler. Then comes David Diehl
(6-5, 319) of the New York Giants, who has started 80 regular-season games, not
to mention the Giants' Super Bowl victory over New England last February.
Long's "welcome-to-the-NFL" tour continues in Week 3 against Seattle's Walter
Jones (6-5, 325), who has 168 career starts and eight Pro Bowls.
That's not exactly the route to a fast NFL start, but Linehan feels Long will
be up to the challenge.
"His progress has been steady and he has been improving," Linehan said. "He's
not unlike any rookie or even high draft picks — you're going to have good days
and you're doing to have not-so-good days because you really haven't got it
figured out yet.
"But the great thing about Chris — and I'll always say this — is that he is
willing to work and do the extra things it's going to take to be great. He's
just got that kind of attitude. He's not going to allow himself to fail."
Re: Patience is key as Long adjusts
I think those first 3 weeks of playing against pro bowl LTs will be hugely beneficial in the development of Long, i see him having a Gaines Adams type of season - start slow and end strongly
Re: Patience is key as Long adjusts
I hope he does good by the end of the season. He's going up against three very good LT's in the first three weeks. This is going to be very good for him.
I see Leonard Little being very helpful for the development of Long as well.