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Sizing up the rookies: Spencer Long

5/22/2014

The Redskins knew they couldn't count on a draft pick starting immediately, not without a first-round pick. If it happened? Great. So they filled their perceived immediate needs in free agency and hoped several in the draft class could fill roles, some more prominent.

Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' free-agency signings should allow the rookies to develop without needing to start immediately. I'll take a look at how the rookies fit in and when they might be needed to play bigger roles.

Player: G Spencer Long

Why he doesn’t need to start: Chris Chester is in front of him and is signed through 2015. Chester is coming off a tough season – the problems up front did not just stem from departed center Will Montgomery. But Chester is experienced; there’s no need to rush Long’s development. Also, there are two other guard possibilities: Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus. However, neither could bump Chester even at the end of last season when any young player of substance was playing.

Future role: Starter. The Redskins really like him; it’s hard to see him not elevating to this point. How effective he’ll be? Impossible to say. He’s more polished than fellow third-round pick Morgan Moses.

When he might need to start: If the Redskins decide they want to make a move with Chester this summer, then Long has a chance to start sooner than the other draft picks (barring injuries). When the head coach says a guy can be competitive right away, as Gruden said about Long, then you pay attention. Other coaches privately have raved about him. Without having seen Gettis or LeRibeus (or Mike McGlynn and Maurice Hurt for that matter) in a while, it’s tough to say if Long is better. He has to prove it against NFL talent. But he’s the new coach’s draft pick and it can’t be stressed enough how much they like him. Chester counts $4.75 million on the cap in 2015, so even if he gets through this season it’s hard to imagine him sticking around. At that point, Long will be in the lineup.

What he must work on: Long will have to work on being more consistent in pass protection, focusing on staying lower. He showed at Nebraska that he could block on the move – he would often pull, even in protection. But Long will have to show he can anchor against NFL tackles; as a redshirt junior there were times he got too off-balance, but that appeared to happen less this past fall. Long’s stock was hurt by missing the final seven games because of a torn MCL last fall, but there was definite improvement from the previous season – more consistency overall. He moves well and works off combo blocks to the second level with precision. All of this makes him a good fit in the zone system.