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Chris Long Adds Total Game To DE Picture

Posted Jun 11, 2017

Here is defensive end Chris Long, a veteran entering his 10th NFL season, a winner of the most recent Super Bowl (and, yes, he’s the owner of a 283-carat ring), and a player who knows he has a lot to give to the Eagles' defense this season ...

Here is defensive end Chris Long, a veteran entering his 10th NFL season, a winner of the most recent Super Bowl (and, yes, he’s the owner of a 283-carat ring), and a player who knows he has a lot to give to the Eagles' defense this season.

So on this day, with a final week of offseason practice ahead of him, and everyone wanting a progress report on the State of the Eagles' D, Long steps back and offers a perspective worth valuing.

“We have potential,” Long said. “That’s the bottom line. Every defense I’ve been on has had potential. What we do with it is up to us. The urgency with which we approach every day is going to dictate how far we go.”

Long expects to play a significant role in the defense as a create-havoc player off the edge. At age 32, Long has been active in the spring, very quick off the snap of the football. He has been that kind of disruptive player in his career, mostly during his eight fantastic seasons with the Rams. Long played last season with New England, a different kind of defense that was more of a multiple front, read-and-react scheme, and now he is back in attack mode.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wants Long to get off the football and surge into the backfield and make things happen.

“I feel great as far as my body and I’m here in a defense that’s a good fit for me,” Long said. “I’m on top of it. I’m taking care of my body and I am comfortable here. This was the right fit for me. So, whatever they ask me to do, whatever role I’m going to play, I’m here to help the defense, help the team.”

Long joined the Eagles on March 31, signing a two-year contract to join a defensive end room that was in a bit of flux. The Eagles relied on Brandon Graham to lead the way in 2016, and he did just that, bringing the thunder and the power in an All-Pro-recognized season that landed just short of the Pro Bowl. While Graham brought it down in and down out, the Eagles struggled to get consistent production from Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin, and Marcus Smith.

After a 7-9 season, the Eagles made some decisions. They released Barwin from his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent. Barwin signed to play with the Los Angeles Rams in March. Then the Eagles signed Long, and in the first round of April’s draft, the team selected Tennessee’s Derek Barnett with the 14th overall pick.

And a defensive end overview was suddenly very different – and very promising.

“We have a group of guys who like to work hard and who help each other out,” Long said. “You see a player like Derek and he comes in here and he’s humble, obviously very talented, and he just wants to get better every day. Derek has a lot of things that you can’t teach. He is so good at the top of his pass rush, and the way he’s able to bend and turn the corner is what makes him so special.

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“That’s all we’re trying to do, to take advantage of the situation that we’re in. Whether you’re a 10-year guy or a rookie, we all have a lot to work on when the pads go on. That’s what this is all about. We’re in one phase here, learning the defense and our assignments. When the pads go on, it’s a different story.”

Long isn’t an Eagle simply to be a rah-rah guy, or a leader in the locker room. He brings with him a heady portfolio that includes 58.5 career sacks after the Rams made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Long is a highly intelligent player who knows the craft. He’s here to get reps after playing 65 percent of the snaps in New England’s Super Bowl-winning season.

He has some juice.

“It’s good to be in a defense that is familiar to me,” said Long, whose father, Howie, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and who has a brother, Kyle, playing offensive line for the Chicago Bears. “I understand what they’re asking us to do, and that works fine with me. I like to get off the football and get up the field, get to the quarterback. Really, that’s what I’ve done for most of my career.

“I like what we’ve done. It’s been good work, a good spring. We want to finish strong.”

The team’s mandatory minicamp ends on Thursday and then the players go their separate ways for five weeks. Then it’s Training Camp, with pads on, and the days end quickly on the way to the regular season.

Long is worth the listen, and worth the watch. He’s been strong in the spring. He’s here to be a veteran, a guiding presence, and a role model, but he’s also here to get to the quarterback. That’s what he’s done in his outstanding NFL career, and that’s what Long intends to do this season for an Eagles defensive end picture that has improved since the end of 2016.

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