It has only been 13 games,
but it is obvious that the Miami Dolphins chose wisely when they selected
Michigan tackle Jake Long with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. At
6-7 and 310lb, Long has all the physical tools and intangibles to be an elite
fixture at left tackle for many years to come.
Usually it takes a rookie,
even a highly regarded one, time to adjust to the pro game. Somewhat
surprisingly, Long is already garnering accolades as one of the best at his
position. In fact, he was actually leading Pro Bowl voting at left tackle
when the fan voting closed out this week (coaches and players will complete the
voting this week).
While his pass blocking has
been solid, Long readily admits that he needs more work to become more
proficient at handling the wide variety of moves and counters that pro
defensive players bring to the table. Meanwhile, his run blocking, the bread
and butter of his game, has already caught the attention of insiders across the
NFL. One metrics guru, ESPN's K.C. Joyner, has Long's run blocks pegged at a 96.6%
success rate. Joyner told The Miami Herald that "(it's) the highest I've
seen in three years doing metrics."
Head Coach Tony Sparano, a
former offensive line coach, is effusive in his praise of Long. "I've been very
impressed with what Jake has done", said Sparano. "Jake, every single week, has
gotten better at what he's done. He knows he has a long way to go, but this guy
is all about work. He's everything that we talk about (tough, smart,
disciplined) and that's why he'll be a good player here."
Added General Manager Jeff
Ireland, "When we look back at the 2008 draft, we will be saying we hit on Jake
Long. I'm certain of that."
The sky is the limit for
Long. He has the work ethic, character, talent, intelligence, toughness, and
discipline to become the greatest tackle in team history. It's up to him to
reach that potential. Right now, nothing seems to be too big for the former
I caught up with Long at the
Miami Dolphins Training Facility in Davie
to get his take on how he's been able to make the transition from college to
the NFL so quickly.
On how his rookie season
has gone versus his own expectations
My expectations were to come
in, start, help the offensive line get better, and get better myself every week.
I feel like I'm getting more comfortable, getting better every single week. I'm
never satisfied with how I do; I'm very hard on myself.
On how he's been holding
up as a rookie with the longer NFL season
I feel good. I've been
taking care of my body real well, getting in the cold tub (to reduce swelling
from contact in practices and games), resting, (and) just keeping myself as
healthy as I can.
On how he's had to change
his preparation to handle the longer NFL season
Just make sure I stay in
good shape. Eating good so I have good energy. Getting my rest and taking care
of my body; getting in the cold tub, getting treatment whenever I need it and
just staying as healthy as I can.
On the difficulty of
facing great pass rushers every week
It's not hard. We prepare
every week and go against great players (in practice). You're going up against
a grown man every single day, every single game. I love that challenge and I
always try to get up for that challenge. On game day, everybody's jacked up. So
I always make sure I do everything I can during the week to prepare, watch
film, and try to know my opponent as much as I can so when I go out there,
there's no surprises.
On what he's seen in the
NFL, technique-wise that he didn't see in college
The biggest thing is the
defensive ends I go against. They have everything it seems. In college, one guy
might have a good bull rush, one guy might just have an up-field move. These
guys (pros) have counters (to their first move), they're strong, they're fast…a lot faster. So I've just got to prepare for
everything. I've got caught up at times with spin moves inside and some speed
rushers. It's just the complex moves everybody has.
On his impressions of
I haven't really had much
time to explore South Florida. Down in Ft
Lauderdale, where I live, the restaurants, the shops, downtown, it's beautiful
around there. In the offseason, I'd love to have more time to do more exploring.