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Spencer Long Winning The Hearts And Minds

Spencer Long was a surprise pick in the 3rd Round this year.

Day 2 of the NFL Draft was a bit of a roller coaster ride for a lot of Redskins fans.  The people who wanted a trade down to get more picks were happy when TRADE popped up and then a little confused when it was Dallas who showed up as the trade partner.  Then the Redskins were finally on the clock for the first time at #47 and the name of our next superstar came up, OLB/DE Trent Murphy.  Again there were mixed feelings about the player, the position picked, and the other players available.

The 3rd Round rolled around, and the Redskins picked RT Morgan Moses who was surprisingly still on the board at #66.  The majority of Redskins Nation liked this pick, and focusing on the the offensive line early.  Getting a player that some people considered in the 2nd round was a great value at this spot.  Now it was time to cash in on what was considered an overpayment by the Cowboys from the earlier trade.  And the player that Bruce Allen chose was...OG Spencer Long from Nebraska...and Redskins Nation raged.  A player who was rated lower by many scouting services due to his season ending MCL/PCL injury last season, and was not on the radar of many fans.

More than a week has passed, and everyone has had more time to digest the pick, research the player, and read reports from this weekends rookie mini-camp.  We hear the story of a smart player who was a walk-on at Nebraska and turned into a solid starter at Right Guard.

He was raw, that’s for sure, Long tells you, but he worked hard in the weight room and started picking up the techniques.

Cotton says Long has a real passion for everything he does.

"Spencer as a redshirt freshman, he was actually our third center and then we moved him to guard and then it seemed like everything kind of clicked for him at right guard," Cotton said. "He battled thought that summer and became the starter and has never looked back."

Earning All-America honors is a product of team accomplishments, Cotton said, noting that Nebraska ranks eighth nationally in rushing offense (254 yards per game) and the Huskers’ 10-win season.

"Individual awards, a lot of times they come from team accomplishments as well, but that doesn’t detract from Spencer’s play," Cotton said. "Spencer is a very good offensive linemen and he deserves those awards."

Spencer Long got the worst of the instant draft reaction, with the oversized ghost of Josh LeRibeus looming in the back of everyone's minds.  But the Redskins chose Long at #78 over higher rated players like Gabe Jackson and Trai Turner.  The next 5 guards off the board were Gabe Jackson(OAK #81), Chris Watt(SD #89), Trai Turner(CAR #92), Brandon Linder(JAX #93), and Brandon Thomas(SF #100).  Jackson and Turner we know about, they had 2nd-3rd round grades and were considered the best guards available by some.  Chris Watt and Brandon Linder were both considered late round picks(6th-UDFA) and Brandon Thomas tore his ACL in a pre-draft workout for the New Orleans Saints.

Did the Skins "reaching" for Long, who was also rated from the 5th-7th Round due to his injury, cause other teams to grab their guys earlier, or did teams have certain players coming off of injury rated much higher than the draftniks?  Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout, and current draft analyst like the combination of Moses and Long in the 3rd Round for the Redskins.

The pick is made, and pre-draft projections can be placed to the side now.  Spencer Long is a Redskin, and his knee appears to be healthy.  He has been doing pre-draft workouts for teams, been cleared by his doctors, and did positional drills with the other rookies at last weekends mini-camp.  Coach Gruden speaks very highly of him, and he appears to be saying all the right things.  He will push for a starting spot on the OL, and possibly allow the team to move on from one of their overpaid and underperforming guards.  Chris Chester is the projected starting Right Guard this year, but he struggled mightily last season, and saves the team almost $7 million in cap space over the next two seasons if he is cut.

Spencer Long: I'm back in football mode

G Spencer Long can play all three interior line positions but he’d prefer to just go hit somebody to having to deal with getting the snap to the quarterback. ""I like guard a little better; I’d rather just not have a ball in my hand," he told me. "But I like the mental game of center, making the calls, that’s pretty fun."

What are some of your challenges through this preseason?

"My challenges are just, you know,  to come in here and be competitive and try to win a job, and hopefully become a Hog.  My friends are already calling me a Hog, they were actually calling me a Hog before I was a Redskin. So ya, just come in, and battle, and try to win a job."

What's your physical status?

"I feel great, I'm 100%.  I went out and practiced today, I got another one later.  Knee feels fine, feels great, I'm just happy to be back."

Can you play Center? Some guys said that might be a position for your future.  What are your thoughts on that?

"I actually had a season of Center under my belt for Nebraska in 2010 and I didn't get any gametime but I practiced Center before so I feel it would be an easy transition for me if someone asked me to do so.  I definitely could see myself playing Center in the future."

Describe your own game?

"I like to think I'm a phone booth player, real physical guy, but also well rounded.  Someone who's going to be able to protect the quarterback, and get yards for the running back.  I think I'm an agile player and I can play fast too."

"He did a great job," Gruden said. "From the first [session] to the fourth [session] of practice, you could see how effective he’s going to be, how smart he is, No. 1, how physical he can be. He’s athletic enough to do whatever we want in the zone game. He’s smart enough to pick up the blitzes and the line stunts. He’s going to be competitive right away."

So has your opinion on the Spencer Long selection changed at all over the last 11 days since he was drafted?  Has the PR blitz, and Kool-Aid rivers flowing from Redskins Park and the fanbase changed your view of Long's potential fit in the future for the Redskins?  Have you done enough of your own research into a player that didn't get much attention pre-draft to form a new opinion.  Or is he the guy you thought he was pre-draft, and still don't like the pick?