For this week’s Hog Study I figured this was a good time to give someone the spotlight who has been completely flying under the radar the past two weeks: Spencer Long. Long has been all along the interior of the offensive line so far in his career but he may have just found his home and that is at the Center position. I’ll shoot straight here, Long is the present and future starter at Center for this offensive line. Let’s review the chaotic season the Redskins have had at Center up to this point: the chaos that was the Bryan Stork saga, Lichtensteiger gets put on IR, and then John Sullivan signs seemingly being penciled in as the starter once he’s ready. Spencer Long was initially viewed by many as a stop gap until Sullivan was ready but I’m here to tell you that Sullivan can take as long (no pun intended) as he wants to get acclimated because Spencer Long is taking the Center position and running with it. Let’s take a look at was he’s bringing to the table at Center shall we?
No, not the movie. One of Spencer Long’s greatest characteristics as a Center that really stands out is his footwork. This is something I never saw from him when he was playing guard before. I highlighted Long’s quick feet last week on Twitter but it jumped out at me this week. His feet are arguably the quickest on the offensive line. Take a look:
This is the kind of rep offensive line coaches would take to a clinic. That, my friends, is footwork. Look at how quick he’s able to change direction on this play. That is due to his quick feet. As a Center sometimes there won’t be a definite “slide side” and he’ll be tasked with giving support to either side, you have to have quick feet in order to do this effectively. On this next play you can see his quick feet in action again:
Nice quick feet matched with a good base then he delivers a nice pop on Shawn Lauvao’s man. I really can’t stress enough how important it is to have great footwork, and that goes for any position on the offensive line.
Run Blocking- The Good and the Bad
Long is no doubt at his best when he’s pass blocking as a Center, but the aspect of his game that still needs work is his run blocking. That’s not to say he’s bad at it either. It’s just not quite there yet. The good aspects of his run blocking is when he is tasked with climbing to block a linebacker. He takes good angles and is good with getting leverage against the linebacker once he makes contact.
I hate to sound like a broken record here but look at his footwork on this play as well. He’s able to leave a hand on the down man than quickly cuts to the linebacker for a beautiful fit and drive with his hands inside as well. If they got a better block out of Vernon Davis this play had potential to go for a big gain, right behind Spencer Long. Another clinic rep by Long. On the next play you see him take on the NT Brandon Williams:
Now if you know who Brandon Williams is you would know that he is no slouch. Long takes advantage of Williams trying to play low and drives him to the ground to open up a huge hole for Robert Kelley. Granted this is an easier block than most you’ll encounter, because Williams was a little off balance. However, it still was a heads up play by Long to recognize it and bury Williams in the ground. It should be noted that there were great blocks all around by the rest of the OL to help make this run go. Long, however, won’t win in a straight up drive block against a guy like Williams; that is where he really struggled. For example:
He allows too much separation on his block here which made it really easy for Williams to shed the block and make the tackle. Long needs to do a better job of getting his hips into the block to really get a drive on his man and to decrease separation. This is the only real thing I saw Long struggling with. If he can shore up these one on one blocks in the run game then his game would be elevated that much more.
Long has a lot of traits that you can build on as a starting Center and I think that he’s getting better with each game as he continues to learn the nuances of the Center position. I think putting John Sullivan in now would only hamper Long’s development. Sullivan is a great backup to have should things go South for Long or if he gets injured. The future is now and the Redskins and their fans should be very pleased with what they have in Spencer Long.