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  • Long Working To Bag Sacks

    Long Working To Bag Sacks
    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    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.”

  • #2
    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.


    • #3
      Re: Long Working To Bag Sacks

      got to have a Big D to prevent the run


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      • Azul e Oro
        Long's ascent no laughing matter
        by Azul e Oro
        Wagoner/Rams site

        Through nine games in the 2010 NFL season, the Rams sit tied for first in the NFL in sacks with 28.

        Considering the pedigree of coach Steve Spagnuolo and his reputation for generating pass rush as a coordinator in New York, that stat in itself might not be too surprising. As the resident expert on the subject, Spagnuolo offers a pretty reasonable explanation for his team’s success bringing down the quarterback.

        “To me sacks always come back to 80 percent want (to),” Spagnuolo said. “You can draw up all different kinds of things and so that comes back to the players. We have some guys that can find their way to the quarterback and get it done.”

        Of course, desire and effort are a big part of rushing the passer but if you ask the assembled, diverse collection of players providing most of that pressure, you’ll find there’s another extremely important ingredient to successfully creating havoc for opposing quarterbacks.

        “We have a lot of different personalities,” end C.J. Ah You said. “You’ve got to have fun and we have a great group of core guys and some young guys. Everyone is cracking jokes and just trying to keep it fun. When you have fun, you play a lot better.”

        It’s no coincidence that the player who is perhaps having the most success of the Rams’ pass rushers is also the one who keeps the jokes coming on a regular basis.
        Now in his third season in the league, defensive end Chris Long is fulfilling the monumental expectations that go with being the son of a Hall of Famer and the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft.
        On the field, Long has developed into a devastating, relentless pass rusher who spends nearly as much time in an opposing backfield as the quarterback. He’s posted 5.5 sacks, including at least one in each of the past four games. He also leads the Rams in quarterback hits (14) and pressures (13).

        “It’s been fun to watch him develop,” veteran defensive end and noted Long mentor James Hall said. “I would say since the first game against Arizona he did some things that I noticed that I am impressed with. It’s just fun to see him develop week in and week out. It’s fun watching him just developing his own style of rushing the passer and having success.”

        Off the field, it’s Long who has taken it upon himself to keep his teammates loose with well executed jokes and pranks in the right situations.
        Long’s propensity for keeping the mood light is limited to when he deems the situation to be appropriate. But he also does not discriminate in his targets.
        Veteran tackle Fred Robbins has been on the receiving end of a number of those jokes as has Ah You, who is Long’s roommate on the road.

        During the Oklahoma-Missouri football game on Oct. 23, Long attacked OU alum Ah You via Twitter saying on the social networking site that “my roommate CJ...
        -11-19-2010, 10:18 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        Long Looks To Make The Leap
        by r8rh8rmike
        Long Looks to Make the Leap
        Wednesday, August 19, 2009

        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        The expectations that go with being the No. 2 pick in the NFL Draft are too numerous to count. When you’re Howie Long’s kid and you’re the No. 2 pick, you can forget about trying to satisfy everyone.

        With the bar placed higher than any reasonable person could jump, Rams defensive end Chris Long simply wanted to get accustomed to the nuances of the NFL game in his rookie season.

        Now that he has, he’s hoping to attack 2009 with the knowledge and understanding that can help him at least start down the path to meeting some of those lofty prospects.

        “It’s a great leap and it’s positive because it feels like football again,” Long said. “The first year, it’s definitely football, but the game just involves a lot more thinking than you’d like it to and a lot less reacting. Now it’s just kind of react and have fun playing again.”

        Ask any coach in the NFL about the transition from college to the NFL and they will tell you there is a long adjustment period that has to be made. The old adage says the closer to the line of scrimmage you are, the harder the adjustment.

        Still, Long finished his rookie year with four sacks and led the Rams in quarterback pressures with 16. By his own admission, though, Long has much bigger plans for his second season now that he’s been in the league for a year and nobody expects more from him than him.

        “I just want to get there more,” Long said. “I think we all want to get there more. Pressures are good but as a defensive front, we have to be dominant. I think we have the pass rushers and the ability to be dominant.”

        This year, the expectations and pressure do remain for Long but much of that has been transferred to this year’s No. 2 overall pick, offensive tackle Jason Smith.

        Fortunately for Smith, he has someone in Long around who has been through a year of expectation and he is able to seek out Long’s advice whenever he has a question.

        Long says he simply tells Smith to be himself and has great faith that Smith will become a great player because of his work ethic and attitude.

        “We all feel that pressure and being the No. 2 pick sure it’s good to see Jason have to go through it now instead of me but that’s the cycle of it,” Long said. “I am sure he will cope with it fine and like I told him ‘you will survive, it will be all right.’”

        While Long is admittedly more comfortable in his second training camp, he’s also going through the adjustment of learning a new defense.

        Of course, the prospect of playing defensive line in a Steve Spagnuolo defense comes with its share of, here’s that word again, expectation.

        Considering the way defensive linemen have performed for Spagnuolo in the past and the...
        -08-20-2009, 10:30 AM
      • eldfan
        Rams' Long stays positive despi
        by eldfan
        Rams' Long stays positive despi

        By Jim Thomas

        When the Rams' snapped their 17-game losing streak last Sunday in Detroit, it wasn't the only dubious streak to end that day at Ford Field.

        Rams defensive end Chris Long had gone 16 consecutive games without a sack before dropping Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford for a four-yard loss in the third quarter.

        "It's a big weight (lifted), I'm not going to lie," Long said. "It's just crazy to go through seven games with zero sacks (this season). It just doesn't make sense. You're playing better ball than last year and you've got less sacks."

        Long was almost sheepish talking about the sack, because it wouldn't have been his had not teammate Clifton Ryan whiffed on tackling Stafford after busting through the line.

        "Cliff made a really nice rush, and I was just able to clean it up," Long said. "There's been times when people clean up my trash, so that's the way it goes."

        Long had come close on a few occasions, and there have been a couple of times this season when his pressure flushed the quarterback into the waiting arms of a teammate.

        Such was the case against San Francisco, when linebacker Larry Grant registered his first NFL sack because pressure by Long forced the quarterback in his direction.

        "Nobody cares when you're getting close," Long said. "They care about the stats. And then you get one, and you're like, 'OK, so now it'll happen more.' It is important just to get the pressure off you, and just start playing."

        Although it's nice to end the streak, one sack obviously isn't enough. Especially when you're the No. 2 overall pick in the draft — as was the case with Long in 2008. Particularly when one of the stated reasons for picking Long over defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey was Long's ability to rush the passer.

        For a while during Long's rookie season, all was well. A two-sack outing against New England on Oct. 26, 2008, gave Long four for the season. He appeared well on his way to an eight-to-10 sack season.

        As fate would have it, that Patriots game marked the start of the Rams' 17-game losing streak.

        For Long, he wouldn't get another sack for an entire calendar year. But if Long has been frustrated during the drought, it hasn't shown in his effort or attitude.

        "And that's a credit to Chris," Rams defensive line coach Brendan Daly said. "He comes to work every day, he battles. He's done the things we've asked him to do. From a developmental standpoint, he's been through two defensive schemes here over the course of two years. And we've asked him to do a number of things."

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      • r8rh8rmike
        Long Moves Past Pressure
        by r8rh8rmike
        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        Through the magic of television, Rams defensive end Chris Long is never far removed from his father Howie, the former Oakland Raider and Hall of Fame defensive lineman.

        And when his famous dad pops up in one of the incessant Chevrolet advertisements on the tube, Long doesn’t hesitate to take the opportunity to crack wise.

        “About 12 at night, 1 in the morning, I’ll text him a random line from his commercials,” Long said.

        His favorite is the ad in which Howie talks to a customer who has recently purchased a foreign pickup truck and Howie tells the man to “have fun being a real trucker.”

        “Real tough lines, dad,” Long said.

        It’s not all fun and games for Long now as he enters his second season in the NFL but there’s no doubt that with one season under his belt the pressure placed on him has at least regressed a bit.

        After the Rams used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft to make Long one of the building blocks of their defense, the expectations and demands placed on Long would have been enough to make even the most steel-minded buckle from the weight.

        Adding to the lofty draft status was a lavish contract and the fact that Long is the son of the aforementioned Hall of Famer.

        “Sometimes it bothers you but it’s your job as a football player to weather that storm of pressure and there’s going to be pressure no matter what situation you’re in whether you’re 2-14, a rookie, not starting, battling for a position, whatever it is,” Long said. “I believe everybody has got their own battles to fight.”

        Long fought his share of battles in his rookie season. Although the expectations placed on him would have been impossible to meet anyway, nobody has higher standards for Long than Long himself.

        During training camp and the offseason program, Long worked to learn the nuances of playing end in a 4-3 defense rather than the 3-4 he came from at Virginia. Instead of occupying two gaps (the B and C), Long was asked to learn to penetrate the backfield by rushing from the edge.

        That process took Long some time because he had to unlearn the basic tenets of the defense he spent four years playing for the Cavaliers.

        In spite of the pressure and expectations, Long made great strides in his first season. Although he finished with just four sacks, Long led the team with 16 quarterback pressures and had 57 tackles and a fumble recovery.

        With some time to reflect on his debut performance, Long believes he made strides in his first season and is excited about what his second season could bring.

        “I think it was good for me,” Long said. “I’ve been blessed enough to be a part of a great defensive line. Sure, I got thrown into the fire, but heavy is the head that wears the crown and being a high pick; you...
        -05-11-2009, 06:48 PM
      • RamWraith
        Long Learning Fast
        by RamWraith
        Thursday, November 6, 2008
        By Nick Wagoner
        Senior Writer

        Not even a month into his NFL career, Chris Long had read the stories, heard the whispers and committed most of it to memory.

        Some decided to declare Long a bust before he ever played a regular season NFL snap, saying he was overwhelmed and overrated. Not worthy of the No. 2 pick, others declared.

        “I read everything and I pay attention to everything,” Long said. “Sometimes for motivation and just because I want to know.”

        Not that Long needs any additional motivation. The pressure of being the No. 2 pick and signing a contract that rewards you with almost $30 million in guaranteed money brings with it a certain amount of inherent strain anyway.

        “I’m motivated anyway,” Long said. “I was the No. 2 pick in the draft; I have found a reason to be pissed off every day.”

        Whatever it is that Long is doing to keep himself fired up to play in every practice and every game seems to be working.

        At the halfway point of his first NFL season, Long has proved many of the nay sayers wrong. Sure, the sample size of eight NFL games isn’t terribly large but the tape and the numbers certainly don’t lie.

        Through eight games, Long is first among rookie with four sacks and trails fellow end Leonard Little by just a half of a sack.

        “Sacks are hard to come by in this league,” Long said. “I am lucky to have four I think. I’m kind of surprised by it. I know how hard they are to come by and just to get pressure is good. You do want to finish off some plays.”

        But Long’s impact hasn’t been limited to the times he’s brought the quarterback down. In fact, coach Jim Haslett has said Long’s best performance came against Dallas on Oct. 19 when Long hit Cowboys quarterback Brad Johnson five times and didn’t have a sack.

        In addition to the four sacks, Long has racked up 39 tackles, eight quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery.

        While those numbers won’t have anyone confusing him for his father Howie, Long is certainly making more of an impact than the doubters had originally thought.

        “That’s why we drafted him with the second pick in the draft,” Little said. “People criticized that pick but once a player gets comfortable out there and knows what he’s doing and can play off instinct, he’s the type of player that can dominate a game. He’s getting real good. He’s a great asset to our defense.”

        Considering how far Long has come in one training camp and half of an NFL season, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that he’s only scratching the surface of the type of player he can become.

        By his own admission, Long was a bit overwhelmed by the transition from college to the NFL.

        During training camp, Long spent more time thinking on the field than reacting. That was only natural of course...
        -11-07-2008, 04:14 AM