It seems to me that Miami Dolphins fifth year left tackle Jake Long is a tad underrated, at least as far as #1 overall picks go. How many aqua, orange, or white Long 77 jerseys do you spot out there. Long was recently ranked #59 in the Top 100 NFL players by the NFL Network. Even when discussing the ‘Phins specifically you are likely to talk about guys like Reggie Bush, Cameron Wake, Chad Johnson, and the QB battle going on before you talk about the 2008 #1 overall pick.
If Long is under-the-radar then at least part of that is understandable. Five of the last six #1 overall picks have been QBs. Surely that is a significantly more exciting position. Plus the Dolphins are just 31-33 in Long’s tenure, and have struggled to be relevant.
The offensive line is where the 300+ pounders engage in very physical battles. We know how important a good o-line is, especially the left tackle spot as all Dolphins QB hopefuls are right-handed. Long protects the blindside, and has been fantastic at it.
Four NFL seasons. Four Pro Bowl seasons. 62 starts, a mere 17.5 sacks allowed. The 6’7″ 320 beast has good speed, and good footwork. Dominant pass-blocker, very good run blocker. Uses his hands and long arms very well. Long is able to make a block, and get into the second level to continue to attack other defenders. He certainly has the competitive streak, and mentality, to play in the NFL at a very high level.
New head coach Joe Philbin has an extensive history working with offensive lineman. The ‘Phins will install a new zone blocking scheme for the o-line. That could be problematic for one-dimensional power blockers (possibly John Jerry) but Long has enough skill to be able to adjust to the new scheme. He should be able to continue to dominate. He looks fully recovered from a torn right bicep that ended his 2011 campaign.
Long also brings leadership to the table. He was a leader in high school. He was a leader at the University of Michigan. He has been a leader in Miami, and wants to increase his leader role in 2012. This is a contract season for Long, but he really seems to be focused on being an example on/off the field rather than worrying about the business aspect. The likely tackle on the other side will be rookie Jonathan Martin. Martin has said that Long makes it clear that any question/comment/concern you come to Long with it. These two, and others, are working together with extra film/work as Long is stressing cohesion.
Miami’s right side of the o-line is in complete overhaul, so Long continuing his Pro Bowl play is critical to keep the left side as a strength. Time will tell if left guard Richie Incognito will adjust successfully to the new blocking scheme, which possibly puts even more emphasis on the need for Long to dominate. If the ‘Phins are going to exceed 2012 expectations then the offensive line will surely be critical. For the o-line to succeed Jake Long will need to continue to be the perennial Pro Bowl LT he has been for four years (and counting)
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