Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Patriot Chris Long's New Position(s)

By John Turney
Since Chris Long was taken by the St. Louis Rams in 2008 he has played a number of positions along the defensive line, other than left and right defensive end. His best position and the one he played most was left defensive end. In his first two seasons, he played right defensive end most of the time, though he'd spell Leonard Little at left end. 

On occasion he'd line up as an inside rusher over a guard or reduce down to 3-technique when the Rams would run some for or the Bear (46) front. He would also be called on in coverage from maybe once a game average (2009, 2011) to up to 3 times a game average (2010) during the Steve Spanuolo era in some of the exotic blitzes that the coach liked to run. And in 2014 and 2015 on a few occasions he would stand up in the A-Gap in a package the Rams called "Ranger". So, Long is no stranger to moving around the defensive formation, from time to time.

However, these things were a rarity, game-in and game-out Long was a left defensive end when he was at his healthy peak, from 2010-2013.

Last Sunday night, though, we saw Long play seemingly all of those in the same game, well, except for being a left defensive end (5-technique) in a 3-point stance, which is how he made his bones in St. Louis. That position, he didn't play.

In the 39 snaps I counted, he lined up as a stand-up 0-technique, standing in the left A-Gap as an inside linebacker, call it a stand-up 1-technique. Three times he lined up as a 3-technique, and another as a 4i (which may have been a wide 3). He lined up as a 5-technique three times, all on the right side and all in a three point stance. As mentioned, he did no snaps in the 5 from the left, his usual position in St. Louis. He was head-up on the tight end five times (6-technique) both in a 2- and 3-point stance.

Twenty-four times he was in a 9-technique and a couple of those were 9 wides and all of them were in a 2-point stance. Those could be divided into a base 3-4 OLBer and some were nickel where he was essentially a stand-up end. And in those it could he said they were really 5-wide techniques, rather than a 9, but not having a playbook I am not sure what it is called, so I am using the nomenclature I am most familiar with and the verbiage than Bill Billichick usually uses. Regardless, a few times from those spots he dropped into coverage.

So, while none of this, except playing base OLBer in a 3-4, is new to Long, but it is fair to say he never did all of that in one game before. If this is what is going to happen all season, Long could be very productive but also not get established enough at one position to possibly make his first Pro Bowl. Long is likely not too concerned with that since he is seeking the ring and stated that is why he signed with the Patriots, but one thing is for sure, you will have to look around the defensive formation to find him because is general terms he played inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive tackle, defensive end and even one snap as a nose or middle linebacker, depending on how you want to define him standing in front of the center.

As far as production he had 3 tackles, one sack and as a 3-technique (defensive tackle) he was held on a key play that put the Cardinals back 10 yards. So, he's still 95% rusher, but a few times he was asked to drop into a zone and cover.

Certainly no one asked me, but any snap where Long is not going forward is a wasted snap. Any snap where he's inside a 5-technique is not wasted, but in the times I've seen it over the years, it's not going to be as productive as when he's outside. And any snap as a 5-, 5-wide, or 9 that is not on the left, is going to be good, but his excellence, in my view, has been from the left side. But, then again, I suppose Bill Bellichick and Matt Patricia have the skins on the wall to make it work. (note heavy sarcasm!)

Here are some screen shots:
Classic 3-4 defensive end spot, a 5-tech, outside shoulder of tackle

Head up on the tight end. 6-tech

Almost a bear front, the 4is could be considered wide-3 techniques. Long is outside a "ghost" TE, what I call a 9 tech

Long is on the outside shoulder of the guard, a 3-technique is a Bear or 46 defense front

Here is where Long is really a stand-up defensive end in a 40 nickel, really. Again, a 9, though could be called a 5-wide

Similar the a 3-tech, Long is in a 4i, the inside shoulder or of the tackle

Head up, in a two-point stance, on the tight end. A 6-technique

Outside shoulder of the guard, a defensive tackle position

Outside shoulder of tackle. Where he usually played with the Rams, though much more on left side.

Standing in the A-Gap, a 1-tech, but not sure of Patriots nomenclaure for this call. He and Collins are showing double A-Gap pressure.

This is a zero or 1 strong, pressure situation, all four rushers in two-point stances.

A 5 tech, though outside the shoulder by a couple of feet, has a 9-tech in his hip pocket.
Again, could be called a 5-wide rather than a 9, he is a stand-up left defensive end in the nickel package here.

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