After cutting Connor Barwin, the Eagles had a need at defensive end. And so Philadelphia signed 32-year-old Chris Long to become part of the team’s defensive line rotation.
Just how much Long plays for the Eagles remains to be seen. There’s a chance he could have a significant role. He left New England seemingly unhappy with his playing time/role despite logging 65% of the Patriots’ defensive snaps last season.
In order to learn more about the Eagles’ new defensive end, here’s some inside insight on him via Patriots and Rams writers.
1 - What’s the reaction from Patriots fans about Chris Long signing with the Eagles?
I feel like every Patriots fan is happy for Chris. He was a real professional during his one year in New England, did everything the coaches asked of him, made a few memorable plays including a major one in the Super Bowl, and provided a few great quotes and interviews along the way. No one expected Long to be a long-term fixture on the defense and he was getting phased out down the final stretch of the season. Long helped win a championship and Patriots fans are thankful- and glad that he found a new home.
2 - What are his strengths?
Long was a great veteran to have in the locker room, especially as the Patriots had a few younger players in their defensive front. It's clear that Bill Belichick thought that he was getting a versatile edge defender in Long; they wanted Long to provide a seamless transition between a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 outside linebacker in the Patriots multiple-front defense. Long was a solid pass rusher that generated a ton of pressure on the quarterback, even if he didn't collect many sacks. It's possible that an aggressive defensive coordinator like Jim Schwartz could put Long in a position to convert those close calls into takedowns.
3 - What are his weaknesses?
While Belichick hoped that Long would be that versatile edge defender, his evaluation of Long changed over the course of the season. Belichick stopped thinking of Long as a 4-3 DE and 3-4 OLB and considered him more of a 4-3 DE and a 3-4 DE, keeping Long on the inside; this is actually one of the reasons why Long wanted to leave New England - Long thought this was a misuse of his abilities, even though he never said a peep during the year. Long was actually benched over the course of the season after beginning the year as a starter because he was unable to make a consistent impact against the run and the pass with starter snaps.
4 - How much did he contribute to the Patriots’ Super Bowl success last season? To what extent was he an important member of the defense?
Long started the year playing 70% of the defensive snaps as the #2 defensive end opposite Jabaal Sheard as Rob Ninkovich was suspended for the first four games. By midseason, the Patriots benched both Sheard and Long and placed Ninkovich and Trey Flowers in the starting lineup. Long finished the regular season playing 60% of the defensive snaps as the #3 defensive end in the rotation, splitting almost equal snaps with Ninkovich, with Sheard a distant #4. Once the playoffs came about, Long's playing time plummeted to 30% as he was the last man in the rotation.
The Patriots don't win the Super Bowl without Long because of what he provided during the first eight weeks of the season, but it'd be a lie to say that his role was the same in the playoffs as it was during the regular season. Long drew a crucial holding penalty to knock the Falcons out of field goal range in the Super Bowl, so it wasn't like he didn't have any value in the playoffs - but when you play three playoff games and have one tackle and one quarterback hit to show for it, it might be a case where the box score closely lines with reality.
5 - How do you envision his best fit with the Eagles? Starter? Backup? Role player?
Long is likely best as a #3 pass rusher coming in on passing downs. Limit him to 40-50% of the snaps and he'll likely provide some quality plays throughout the season.
6 - Long has a reputation of being a good locker room guy. He’s active on Twitter as well. Do you have anything to note about his off-field value? Any stories or anything?
Make sure to check out his organization Waterboys, which he started after running into Joe Buck and Brad Pitt's brother while hiking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. I swear that is not a bad version of Millennial Mad Libs. Long is a great member to have in the community and he's just a really entertaining human being. It's extremely easy to root for him.
1 - What was the reaction from Rams fans when the team cut him last year?
I think more than anything it was just melancholy that the Jeff Fisher era wasn't working out and that Long was never able to help get the team to the playoffs. At the time, the dominant narrative was the approval the month prior to relocate the Rams back to Los Angeles. So personnel decisions were always going to be looked through that prism. Cutting Long at the same time as MLB James Laurinaitis, the Rams' all-time tackles leader, along with TE Jared Cook was just a clear signal that the Fisher era had not worked. Handed a core from the previous era, Fisher was supposed to use the RGIII trade which, along with an additional trade in that 2012 NFL Draft that added another second rounder, provided him two extra first-round picks and two second-round picks to turn around the franchise. He didn't. Wasted superfluous picks at running back and busts like Greg Robinson and Brian Quick failed to propel the offense. By 2015, it was the worst in the NFL. So while Long's play in his final two seasons with the Rams didn't match the level of performance that both and he and fans had become accustomed to, it was more an indication that it was time to move on from the entirety of the Fisher era. It was an amicable situation as Long remains incredibly popular among the fan base despite that drop in performance.
2 - What are his strengths?
Relentlessness. He's never going to take a play off. He's a great locker room addition too as a veteran who knows how to get through a 17-week season professionally at a top level of commitment both on his own behalf but also that of his teammates. No lie though...probably the biggest thing to get excited about for Eagles fans? His Twitter account. Dude's a trip.
3 - What are his weaknesses?
Measurables. He's not quick, doesn't have any of those freakish athletic capabilities that wow you. He's more the type to wear you down to win as opposed to just beating you 1v1 on the first go. And of course at 32-years old, you have to worry about age clipping off his speed/acceleration a bit.
4 - How do you envision his best fit with the Eagles? Starter? Backup? Role player?
I'm biased, but I could certainly see him starting for you guys by Week 1. I'd certainly expect him to compete with Vinny Curry for the starting gig across from Brandon Graham. I guess the real question is whether or not you guys would end up with a candidate out of the draft to challenge for that role as well. But otherwise, the Long-Curry would be a good training camp battle for yall to follow.
5 - I noticed you said Long will be “hell of a locker room presence” for the Eagles. What makes you say that?
He's always been well-liked by his teammates. Honestly though, it's just because he's a good guy and it comes effortlessly. He spent time focusing on homelessness in St. Louis. He runs an awesome charity that works to provide water to needy parts of Africa. He's hilarious. He's considerate. He's well-spoken. It's just easy for him to be a good presence in general. Throw in his experience as a nine-year NFL veteran, and there's no reason he won't be unanimously liked by the team for his in-house contributions. As for Sundays, we'll just have to see. Just be careful. He loves playing powerball: