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Every Play Counts: Jake Long vs. Chris Long

Dec 2, 2008 – 1:00 PM
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Michael David Smith

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Every Play Counts is Michael David Smith's weekly look at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game.

The Miami Dolphins selected offensive tackle Jake Long with the first pick in this year's NFL draft. The St. Louis Rams selected defensive end Chris Long with the second pick. On Sunday, they did battle at the Edward Jones Dome.

The Dolphins won the game, but who won the individual battle? I explore in this week's edition of Every Play Counts.

I'm scoring the Long vs. Long match-up like a fight: Each Dolphins offensive drive is a round, and I'll score using the 10-point must system. I've done this before with Dwight Freeney taking on Jonathan Ogden in 2004 and again in 2005.

Drive 1
With Chris Long lined up to the outside of Jake Long and ready for a speed rush, Jake was called for a false start before the Dolphins' first offensive play. When the Dolphins finally got to run a play, Chris tried to rush to the outside of Jake and never got close to making the tackle as Jake pushed him aside. The Dolphins didn't think Chris was fast enough to make tackles from the backside; when a Ronnie Brown run went around the right end, Jake didn't even bother blocking Chris and Chris was not, in fact, fast enough to track Brown down.

On Chad Pennington's second pass of the game, Chris absolutely dominated Jake. Chris started with an outside speed rush, but when Jake got into good position to stop him, Chris simply grabbed Jake by the shoulder pads, threw him to the ground, and then grabbed Pennington and slammed him to the ground. Pennington (barely) got the pass off, but it was incomplete, and Chris made him pay the price for it. The next time Pennington passed, Jake got help blocking Chris from guard Andy Alleman.

Overall, from the false start to the hit on Pennington, Chris Long absolutely dominated this round.

Score: Chris, 10-7.

Drive 2
Dolphins running back Lousaka Polite got the handoff on the first play of the drive, and Jake opened up a big hole by pushing Chris to the outside. When Pennington dropped back to pass, Jake got a little bit of help on a chip block from tight end Anthony Fasano, but even without Fasano's help, Jake appeared to have Chris under control. On Pennington's next pass Chris tried to spin to the inside and Jake held him in check, and then Chris tried another outside move on the pass after that, and Jake stoned him again.

Chris made a nice play on a handoff to Ronnie Brown, getting off Jake's initial block and taking Brown down after a gain of seven yards. (That play came back because Dolphins offensive lineman Vernon Carey was called for facemasking.) After that, Chris spent a few plays on the sideline. But for the most part, when they went one-on-one, Jake got the better of the battle.

Score: Jake, 10-9.

Drive 3
A three-play drive, with Chris staying on the sideline. Nothing to see here.

Score: 10-10 draw.

Drive 4
The first play was a strange one: Chris came with an outside rush and beat, Jake, forcing Pennington to step up in the pocket. When Pennington did step up in the pocket, he saw that there was nothing but green turf in front of him, so he scampered 16 yards before stepping out of bounds. It was a heads-up play for Pennington and a good play for the Dolphins, but what we're interested in here is the individual battle, and Chris clearly won that play.

On a handoff to Ricky Williams later in the drive, Jake drove Chris back a few yards but then just stopped blocking before the play was over. Both Jake and Chris looked to me like they gave up on a few plays before the whistle blew, which is the type of thing you can get away with when you're in college and you're a lot better than everyone else, but that you can't get away with if you want to be a great NFL player.

After a holding penalty, the Dolphins faced first-and-20 with 49 seconds left before halftime. Chris rushed to the outside and Jake got in his way at first, doing a pretty good job of maintaining the proper position. But as Pennington tried to buy time in the pocket, Chris finally got Jake off balance, knocked him down, and hit Pennington just as Pennington delivered his pass, a seven-yard completion to Fasano. Jake held his pass block for, by my stopwatch, 4.0 seconds -- long enough that on most plays, Chris wouldn't have gotten to Pennington. But the bottom line is that Pennington took a shot to the ribs. That means Jake didn't hold his block long enough.

Score: Chris, 10-8.

Drive 5
On the first play of the second half, Jake was matched up with Chris on a Pennington pass, and both Williams and Alleman came over to help him. Is this a sign that the Dolphins made a halftime adjustment, thinking Jake couldn't handle Chris and they'd need to give him help?

Probably not, because on Pennington's next pass, it was Jake vs. Chris, one-on-one again. Chris got good pressure on Pennington, as did Rams defensive lineman James Hall, and they both hit Pennington as he passed, forcing an incompletion and a three-and-out.

Score: Chris, 10-9.

Drive 6
Jake was one-on-one with Chris again on Pennington's next pass, and although he looked a little clumsy -- losing his balance and going to the ground -- he held up long enough that Pennington had time to throw a beautiful pass along the right sideline for a 37-yard completion to Davone Bess.

On the next two plays, runs by Ronnie Brown, Jake blocked Chris effectively, and when Pennington passed again, Jake held him in check without needing any help. It was a good series for Jake, and it culminated in a Dolphins field goal.

Score: Jake, 10-9.

Drive 7
The Dolphins ran just two plays on this drive, fumbling both times. On the first play, Pennington bobbled the snap, picked it up, tried to run to his left, and was tackled by Chris, who used quick footwork to get by Jake.

On the second play, Pennington pitched the ball to Brown, who passed it to tight end David Martin, who fumbled. Rams linebacker Quinton Culberson picked it up and tried to run, but Jake hustled downfield and tackled him. That was a great, heads-up play by Jake, although hustling downfield to make tackles after fumbles isn't really the first thing you look for in an offensive tackle. Overall, thanks to the tackle on Pennington, I have to give this
round to Chris.

Score: Chris, 10-9.

Drive 8
Again, a three-play drive, with Chris staying on the sideline. Nothing to see here.

Score: 10-10 draw.

Drive 9
Not much action between the two here, either, but when they did go one-on-one, on a Pennington deep pass, Jake held Chris at bay, so we'll give it to Jake.

Score: Jake, 10-9.

Drive 10
The Dolphins' final drive of the game was a long one, on which Miami controlled the ball, held onto its lead and forced St. Louis to use all three timeouts. Jake showed off some good run blocking, but he and Alleman both flinched on a third down (perhaps anticipating a speed rush from Chris, who was lined up on Jake's outside shoulder), giving the Dolphins a costly false start penalty. That's enough to give the final round of this fight to Chris.

Score: Chris, 10-9.

Final score: Chris Long beats Jake Long by score of 97-92.

No, Chris Long didn't record a sack, and yes, he got just one tackle. But he hit Pennington three times and generally looked like a much better pass rusher than Jake Long is a pass blocker. Jake was fine in run blocking, but he still has work to do as a pass blocker, and overall, Chris Long won this battle of highly drafted rookies.
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