Welcome to the Spotlight. Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week. Today's player in the spotlight is center Spencer Long.
Spencer Long is a 27 year old, 6' 5", 318 pound center/guard out of the University of Nebraska. At Nebraska Long was a two year starter who impressed enough for the Washington Redskins to pick him with the 78th overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft.
With the Redskins Spencer Long sat his first year before earning a starting position at guard in his second season in 2015. Long slid over to start at center in 2016 and 2017 before his 2017 season was cut short by a knee injury. After the 2017 season the Redskins chose not to re-sign Long, making him an unrestricted free agent. On March 18, 2018 the New York Jets signed him to a four year, $28 million contract to replace Wesley Johnson as the Jets starting center.
Thus far in 2018 Spencer Long has held up fairly well in pass protection while struggling a bit more in his run blocking. Tonight in Cleveland Spencer Long and his offensive line compadres face a difficult test in trying to protect rookie quarterback Sam Darnold against a fierce Cleveland Browns pass rush. The Browns like to bring pressure straight up the middle of the defense. Young defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi already has three sacks in the first two games of the 2018 season, and budding superstar edge rusher Myles Garrett has two sacks of his own. The Browns like to move Garrett around a lot to give opponents fits, and he will at times stunt to an interior rush, making tonight’s game a nightmare for interior offensive linemen like Spencer Long. The Browns pressure up the middle has contributed to the team putting up a massive eight defensive turnovers in just two games. Tons of pressure and tons of turnovers are not the friends of quarterbacks, particularly rookie quarterbacks. The Jets will have their hands full against this young, aggressive Browns defense.
If Spencer Long and his offensive line teammates can manage to hold off the Browns’ pass rush and mostly get the better of the Browns in the trenches, then Sam Darnold and the Jets offense stand a good chance of generating an effective offense tonight. On the other hand if the Browns defensive line overwhelms Long and the Jets offensive line most of the night it could be a long and miserable outing in Cleveland for Darnold and company.
The Jets game against the Browns begins a six game stretch which features five big challenges against tough defenses in the Browns, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Denver Broncos, the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears That’s a murderers row of defenses facing Sam Darnold and the Jets in quick succession, a trial by fire for the Jets young quarterback and the offense. The Browns look to be perhaps the most winnable game in that stretch, and if the Jets offensive line is overwhelmed tonight it bodes ill for the near term prospects of the team.
Spencer Long and your fellow Jets offensive linemen, now is the time to step up your game. In Cleveland, under the lights, in front of a national television audience, it’s time to show the world what you’ve got. Offensive linemen often labor in relative anonymity, and if you do your job, it mostly stays that way. Tonight, in the spotlight, it’s time to remain anonymous and shut down a very young and very good Browns defensive line. It’s your time in the spotlight Spencer Long. Somewhat paradoxically, the Jets will benefit the most if that spotlight never finds you.