One of the few bright spots all year in the steaming pile of crap that is the St. Louis Rams has been the play of Chris Long. Finally living up to his number two overall draft status this year, Long is currently 3rd in league in sacks with 12 through 14 games.
The Rams defensive end is having a phenomenal year overall. Long is hurt, obviously, by the fact that he’s playing for a struggling team. The Rams are enduring a ridiculously brutal season, losing what seems like half the team to the IR. But this shouldn’t hinder Long from getting the proper recognition he deserves for a stellar season. Chris Long deserves more credit than he’s getting plain and simple.
Chris has recorded a sack in six straight games and has recorded a sack in all but three games this season. While the Rams have struggled in nearly every category this season, they tie for fifth in the league as a team in sacks, thanks to Long’s career year. And Long is getting it done with opposing teams targeting him, and with a bad ankle that has cut down his practice time. In all, he looks like he’ll become the bookend on the defensive line the Rams hoped he would back in 2008.
Against San Francisco, Long extended his sack streak to six consecutive games. Bad wheel, bad team and all, Long just keeps working. His sacks have gone up in all four seasons in the league and he has been a bright spot for the club in an otherwise disappointing defensive year. In the Rams signature win of the season over the New Orleans Saints, Long recorded three sacks in the game.
For some perspective here is how Chris stacks up against another Left Defensive End through his first four years: his father, Hall Of Famer Howie Long.
- Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the 2nd round (48th overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft.
- Made the Pro Bowl his third year and All-Pro in his fourth. Led league in Sacks in 1983
While Pro-Football-Reference doesn’t track it, Long unofficially registered 7.5 sacks in his rookie year, before sacks were tracked as an official stat by the NFL. After registering 10 sacks in 1985, his 5th year in the NFL, Howie never had again had a double-digit sack season. Granted it did not exactly slow him down as his career continued to trend upward, highlighted by his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000.
Long’s explosiveness was especially potent considering that he played in a 3-4 front for the Raiders, meaning that he would have to defeat guard-tackle double teams on a regular basis, and was called upon to defend the run. He showcased both in a Super Bowl XVIII victory over John Riggins, Joe Theisman and the offensive powerhouse Redskins.
While the Rams surely hope for continued production from the younger Long, prevailing wisdom lends to them being happy if the end results are the same.
- Drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 1st round (2nd overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft.
- Named Pro Bowl alternate in his third year. Currently third in the NFL in sacks.
Long’s big step forward in production came in his third year, after he moved from the right defensive end spot (matched up against opponents’ left tackles, which should be the best pass-protectors in the game) to his natural left side. While he now faced regular double-teams against tackles and tight ends, he was able to better use his speed and a “rip” move cobbled from his father to wreak havoc in the backfield.
As the anchor of a youngry, improving defense Long has already asserted himself as one of the best in the NFL at getting to the quarterback. While his team has yet to reach the same lofty heights as the “Commitment to Excellence” era Raiders, Long has ranked among the league leaders in bringing heat. According to Pro Football Focus, Long has tallied more QB pressures (101) than any other player over the past two seasons. This year, that constant pressure is paying off on the stat sheet, and helping a weak team mount a surprisingly effective pass defense.
However his career trends in the future, Chris Long has already put himself in good company.