After a season of ineptitude at the center position, the Jets found themselves some new blood in the middle with former Redskin Spencer Long.
Initially, I was very disappointed in this signing. Long’s grades shrivel in the presence of other free agent centers like Weston Richburg and Ryan Jensen, either of which I was hoping would be the next Jets center.
However, after diving in a little more, I’m not all that mad at the addition. I think the grades undersell him, especially considering that many around the Redskins have said that Long was playing through injury much of 2017. The grades say he stinks, but I say he is a perfectly fine, average center with the potential to improve with more experience at the position and good health (he started out as a guard). Health is a big question mark for him, but I think the Jets have a good scheme fit and at least a serviceable starter.
Here is a little collection of Long plays.
Long isn’t a pancake chef, but he knows how to set his base and keep opponents at bay using his absolutely mammoth 10¾” hands (94th percentile for interior offensive linemen). Here he does a tremendous job sealing Rams tackle Michael Brockers; a good player.
A look at his measurables compared to interior offensive linemen, with his hand size standing out:
I think Long is better in pass protection than as a run blocker. In this phase of the game I think he was consistently above-average and flashes the potential to be very good. Here he holds up well in a 1-on-1 pass protection situation. On the other end of the play, you can see fellow Jet Trumaine Johnson make a great break on the ball to record the pass breakup.
Here are a couple plays were Long came up short. I mentioned how I think he fares better as a pass protector. Here’s a loss in the run game. Long can’t execute at the second level here and that miss limits a run with huge potential to only 5 yards. Not that he doesn’t possess the strength, because I see it at times, but Long doesn’t punish enough. I would’ve liked to see him attempt to drive the linebacker here rather than planting in that position, clogging the hole for Rob Kelley.
Long has been lauded as a good scheme fit for the Jets’ zone blocking scheme. He definitely comes from a similar scheme in Washington. However, I thought his open field play was possibly the weakest part of his game. He flashes the athletic ability to do it, but there were too many instances like the one below where he took a poor angle to the defender.
Long stumbles out of the snap and has no shot at getting to Reggie Ragland. On this particular play Long is lucky the ball bounces out of bounds, or his tripping could’ve pretty much directly resulted in Ragland recovering the fumble and the Redskins turning the ball over.
I will show you a glimpse of his potential on the move that has some excited about his fit in the Jets’ scheme. This is pretty impressive speed to the edge to get a piece of 2 defenders and create a little extra room for Chris Thompson. He can do it as you see here. He just needs to take angles like this one more often.
All in all, I think Long represents a definite upgrade at center for a Jets team that endured below replacement level performance at the position in 2017. The questions are; A. can he stay healthy? And, B. can he make the necessary refinements/progression to elevate from an average center to a difference-maker?