I've been trying to keep tabs on how Jake's been holding up as the number 1 overall pick. Leading up to his selection, I was always suprised that every commentator compared him to Joe Thomas, and each and every one of those comparisons concluded that either Long probably wouldn't be as good as Thomas and/or he was bound for RT.
Joe is a good lineman, smooth, good feet. Great technique and very effective in the run game. Jake was close but couldn't quite match him in those areas, but had always displayed the type of brute, overpowering force that you don't often see translate to the NFL. So I was anxious to see if he could dominate physically at the NFL level, and how he'd fair in his comparisons with Thomas.
The lack of media analysis of the #1 overall pick so far has been very disappointing. Even the dolphins site at scout rarely mentions Long and never discusses his progress. I was even more perplexed to see Jake lined up at RT in all those wild hogcat highlights, yet, he was still being listed as an LT and there was no media mention of a switch. He was blocking well in those highlights so I figured he must have been struggling at LT like many predicted, and had made the switch.
Then I saw the last 3/4 of the Houston-Miami game on NFL replay, which is a fantastic program by the way. There is a lot of commentary which is okay from players, good from coaches, and great from the head of officials. There is the occasionaly indepth breakdown of key plays and they should do a lot more with this. But I digress.
Anyhoo, there was Jake-y at LT squaring off against Mario Williams and holding up quite well. I was confused again, but excited for the measuring stick match up. Then Miami shifted into the hogcat and things became clear. When they go to that formation, Jake doesn't just shift to the right side, he lines up as a TE over there. Brilliant coaching to get Long and Carey together. Even if the defense over loads to the strong side those two can ram enough of a hole playside to get positive yardage. Impressive use of personal.
After the 1st half, Mario Williams went head to head with Jake for one play. That pretty much says it all, don't you think?
Like I said, I missed the 1st quarter and Williams was credited with 2 sacks. I only saw one and it was in the 2nd half, so don't know if Jake got beat early on. Jake did get pushed into Pennington once in the 2nd half by the other DE, forcing Chad to move up in the pocket where Williams got sack #2.
Jake looks like Boselli redux out there. He was crumpling players bobby carpenter-style when asked to fire out. They also blocked down with the TE on his side a lot and had him pulling around the left side. He really showed his knack for picking the right guy to block in those situations and getting effective blocks in space at the second level. This is not an area he needs to improve, but is one I think he will keep getting better at until he's among the best in the NFL.
Williams never got close to the QB in their one-on-one battles. Jake gets off the line and into his pass drops so quickly I swore he false started once or twice. However, he retreats a bit too quickly and too deep. He seems overly threatened by the outside pass rush, which leaves the inside move wide open (though nobody took advantage). When single blocking a pass rushing DE, he did not engaged at the snap, instead retreating into his drop and allowing the DE to come to him. When guys went wide against this, he easily rode them out of the play. But he struggled against the bull rush because the DE was basically getting a 2.5 step running start and blasting into a stationary Long. He held his ground adequately in these situations save for the play where his man forced the sack.
He did not appear to work well with the LG Smiley. When the defense slanted right and Jake wasn't really asked to block anyone himself, his "helping" blocks on the guy Smiley was engaged with weren't very effective. There were many times when no Texan bothered to rush from Jake's side, and once he realized this he wasn't good at sliding and helping the rest of his linemates. Picking nits I guess.
How is that hogcat effective against NFL defenses where the threat of any downfield pass is so remote? The Miami offensive line and TEs deserve a lot of credit for its success, and the coaches have put on a clinic in playing off their own tendencies out of it. Perfect example was the reverse/flea flicker to Pennington who was lined up as WR, which was then thrown to a wide open RB down the field (I would love to see RR steal that one with the throw going to Moundros). But what allows this formation continuing success is the ability to hike it to Brown or Ricky and let the Carey-Long tandem drive forward for 5 yards.