Hey Redskins fans, don't you dare sleep on Spencer Long!
When you talk about toughness, grit and determination, Spencer Long's name should immediately come to mind. It wasn't all that long ago that the former walk-on-turned-team-captain started all 14 games of his 2012 season at Nebraska with a torn meniscus. Still, it didn't stop him from earning first team All-Big10, and second team All-American honors following the season.
What makes Long special is his mentality and intelligence. He plays the game angry, but also intelligently. During his time in college, Long saw action at all three interior positions, mainly playing right guard, and even kicked out to tackle in a pinch. Coach Bo Pelini said Long knew all the offensive line calls, and would often mentor younger offensive linemen just coming into the program. It was these intangibles that saw Long named as one of four team captains - the first ones of the Bo Pelini era at Nebraska.
Long was described as a "phone booth" type interior offensive linemen heading into the 2014 NFL draft, with the ability to play all three interior offensive line positions. The knee injury he suffered as a senior limited his ability to work out at the NFL scouting combine, but that didn't stop the Redskins from selecting him in the third round. He was able to show off his strength at his Pro Day, benching 225 28 times. He also had the largest hands of any linemen at the combine, measuring 10 3/4.
How can Long help the Redskins in 2016?
Spencer became a starter at left guard in 2015 after Shawn Lauvao went down with a season ending injury. His play steadily improved as the season went on, and he was part of a unit that allowed just 26 sacks to starter Kirk Cousins. Long showed good ability to anchor against the bull-rush, and was not easily pushed back into the pocket. He showed better-than-average feet when tracking linebackers and defensive backs at the second level, and was most impressive when playing through the whistle on running plays. He also did an excellent job when he was tasked with picking up blitzes and helping other linemen in pass pro.
This season, the Redskins are loaded at offensive guard. Lauvao is returning from injury, and if he's healthy, should be considered the favorite to start at left guard, although Long can certainly challenge him. Second year pro Brandon Scherff is penciled in as the right guard, and could be in store for a Pro Bowl season. That leaves Long, Josh LeRibeus, Arie Kouandjio and new comer Cody Booth fighting it out for positions on the 53 man roster. At 6'5" 311, Long is the biggest of the four, and the way he ended 2015, may make it hard for the coaches to keep him off the field.
The lone weak link of the Redskins offensive line is at center. Kory Lichtensteiger remains on the roster, but he is not the long-term answer(or the short-term either) at the position. At just 6'2" 296 pounds, Lichtensteiger is easily manhandled by larger, more athletic defensive linemen, often ending up in our own backfield. Kory turned 31 in March, and he could save the Redskins $2.75 million if he's released.
This is where Spencer Long could make an impact.
Long has the size, mentality, physicality and intelligence to excel at center for our Redskins. He's better in tight spaces than he is on an island, and his base is very strong, making him an excellent fit at center. His massive hands can easily grip the ball in wet and dry conditions, and his experience in both college and the pros in making line calls(something he did a lot at Nebraska) should help make for an easy transition to the position.
If Long can grasp the nuances of the positions during training camp, he could become the future of the position for years to come in DC, and end the drought that has seen significant under-performing at the position for some time.