RICHMOND, Va. -- The latest installment on the Redskins' rookies, what they're learning and what they still must learn in order to help. This time, it's third-round pick Spencer Long, a guard from Nebraska. He's spent camp working at right guard with the No. 2 defense.
What he’s learning: Reading defenses and adjusting to seeing stunts for the first time at an NFL level. In a two-on-two drill earlier in the week, Long misread the rush on two occasions. He anticipated one thing and was surprised by something else, enabling the defensive player to knock him off balance and get penetration.
“They have a lot of tricks up their sleeve to fake a two-man stunt and make it look like they’re picking the tackle,” Long said. “But he’s not and he comes back around and one-on-one rushes me. Little things that you pick up on as time goes on.”
Long also is working on maintaining his balance. At times, his weight is too much on his outside, and he ends up leaning with his left hand leaning to the inside. It creates imbalance and defenders have beat him outside.
Finally, his eyes. Any coach will say that a rookie must get his eyes right and focused in the proper places. Long is no exception. NFL linemen must figure plays out more on the fly than in college so they need to be smart and know where they should be looking.
“They put a lot more responsibilities on you as a lineman to figure it out on the run,” Long said. “In college it was more definitive. You have to learn what to look at and what to key. If this guy comes, you have him but if he doesn’t you have [someone else]. It’s a different game, and it takes more experience and a lot more vision than it did in college.”
What stands out: He plays with good technique and has shown the ability to move and navigate traffic to make blocks. Long pulled a lot at Nebraska so he’s comfortable when he needs to move. He understands angles and the path he must take. He also moves well in traffic, staying up and staying on his man and getting to the linebackers. The Cornhuskers ran some outside zone so that’s helped ease Long’s transition. Long’s technique appears to be rather solid.
What he needs to show: Consistency. Long has the physical attributes: He’s big and can move. But he’s not such a physical marvel that he can step right in and play. Again, it goes back to the eyes. Long must show that he can consistently recognize the fronts and then make the proper adjustment. It's tougher than it sounds. He's also playing behind a group that is well-familiar with the run game, for example.
“He’s doing a good job understanding the run game,” Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “Protection wise, he’s been solid. [But] the fog hasn’t cleared yet in regard to the plays, the specifics, the details. He has a great understanding, it’s just not all clear yet.”
Projection: Long will make the roster as a backup guard, but he should challenge for a starting job at some point -- either later this season or next summer. Current starting right guard Chris Chester is signed through 2015, and he will open as the starter barring a big turn of events. But if Long progresses as they hope, he will challenge for that job next summer.