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Need to Know: Redskins’ Long still ‘finding his way’ while learning center

Jun 6, 2016, 5:26 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 6, 52 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.


—The Redskins last played a game 148 days ago. It will be 98 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 52; Preseason opener @ Falcons 66; Final roster cut to 53, 89

Hot topics from the Redskins week that was

I’m still getting up to speed after being on vacation last week. I have a few thoughts on what Jay Gruden and Joe Barry had to say after last week’s OTA session.

—Gruden was asked about Spencer Long’s progress. “Yeah, at guard you see the improvement quite a bit – just the knowledge and the confidence that all the players get going into their second and third year,” he said. But he added, “Center is a different story – it is brand new to him and he’s finding his way there.” I would not expect to see Long as the team’s starting center anytime soon, and by that I mean in 2016, barring some sort of an emergency.

—Asked about the competition at left guard, Gruden mentioned Long and Shawn Lauvao. “It’s good to have two good guys at that position,” he said. Hmmm, there was no mention of Arie Kouandjio, who seems to be the fan’s choice at the position. You never know what might happen but you may have to wait until at least 2017 to see him lined up as a regular.

—Barry said that they have to have two safeties with the No. 1 defense right now and for the time being those two are DeAngelo Hall and David Bruton but that could be a temporary situation. “Hall and David Bruton are going with the first group, but we’re rolling guys in there,” he said. “Our depth chart is in pencil, it’s not in Sharpie.” So Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon will get their chances; while Hall and Bruton may have the inside track on the starting jobs for now the matter is far from settled.

—Everyone wants to know right now what role Su’a Cravens will play in the defense. Barry said that while he will play the weakside ILB spot for now, they think he can do a lot more. “You can play him at inside backer, you can play him at outside backer and rush him off the edge or drop him into coverage,” he said. “You can play him in the slot in a nickel position and do a bunch of things with him.” But he won’t learn all of those spots immediately. “He’s a new kid coming in, learning the playbook, learning all new terminology,” said Barry. “He’ll be the first one to tell you, the rookie minicamp, it was like we were speaking a different language, which is understandable. It’s hard for young guys at any position to come in and learn the terminology of a new playbook.”

—On the subject of DE Stephen Paea, Barry rattled off some reasons for his disappointing performance in 2015. “I think as I mentioned before, I think anytime that a player changes teams, changes systems as a veteran, there is going to be a little bit of a learning curve both in scheme and terminology and then to add into it that he got banged up, hurt his foot,” he said. Of course, what are reasons to some are excuses to others. Barry forgot to include that the dog may have eaten Paea’s homework. Free agent signings are no sure thing and Paea is going to have to prove on the field that he is ready to perform.

  1. redskins12thman - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:19 AM

    LG, C, RDE, DT / NT, both Safety spots and back-up running back are the positions where there is the most uncertainty as to who will start; if fully recovered, I think Lauvao starts at LG but if he’s not, then Long gets the nod. Lichtensteiger is the best option; coaches are trying to determine who would replace him if he can’t go. Outside of Baker, it’s a free-for-all on the DL — who will standout from the half dozen plus players competing. Who can stay healthy and which converted CB learns the most quickly will determine the safety starters. The coaches will wait to the full contact drills and preseason games to see who does best at the RB position; again health will determine RB rankings too (e.g., Thompson).

    Does anyone know about the challenge of learning a playbook. Is it mainly the terminology used to disguise the play and the number of plays that is the challenge? I’ve got to imagine that the concepts are fundamentally the same from-team-to-team, but the nuances change and the language changes to hide the play. It’s like learning a code that disguises the play. Is that correct?

    • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 1:34 AM

      That very much depends on the team you came from. Some offenses are similar to other, same with D. But others are very different. There’s going to be an excess amount of terminology in Gruden’s offense. Others are more simple in that area. It’s just hard to say without specifying the player.

      But those play books are huge. It can take a while even if you’re just learning new terminology for a similar playbook.

  2. abanig - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:21 AM

    I never thought Long would be a starting center this year… Others? Well not so much. Many have been on the anybody but Kory L train for 3 years but the truth is isn’t a bad player. Maybe 2017 is the year Kory L is gone and Long or Reiter starts at center, but to think it’s going to be this year has been a pipe dream by many in Redskins nation.

    I think Lauvao is going to be our starting LG – at least for this season. Long wasn’t great at the point of attack last year in the running game and it’s one reason why our running game went front great to bad in the matter of a week.

    Long’s time to be the full time & long time starter at either C or LG IMO is 2017. Then, either Reiter will start at C or Long will start at C and Kaunadijo will start at LG.

    Back ups OL this year I think are Nsekhe, Long, Kuandijo & Reiter.

    • colorofmyskinz - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:33 AM

      Kory is so so, and that is it. We need something solid there we can count on for 16 games. That we do not have.

      • abanig - Jun 6, 2016 at 9:04 AM

        It kind of reminds me of Casey Rabach. Rabach was really good when we first got him but the last two years in DC, he was just average, but we weren’t going to relive him just to replace him. It took a while until we found younger guys like Montgomery & then Kory L to replace him.

        So next year could be the year when Kory L is replaced by someone on the roster or a draft pick, but I don’t see any of our young guys being ready right now to take his job.

    • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2016 at 8:43 AM

      I think it’s pretty clear that THE ORGANIZATION would like to replace Lichtensteiger. From the trying of Long out at the position, to the re-signing of LeRibeus, to the reports that they would’ve taken Ryan Kelly had he been available (who knows about Nick Martin in the second). However, unlike fans, the organization simply won’t replace him with a body. They’re actually looking for equal or better production. I hope they find it this year.

      • abanig - Jun 6, 2016 at 9:02 AM

        Yep, that’s how I feel and what it seems I’ve been saying for three years now and getting killed on some message boards for having that opinion. Lol

      • ET - Jun 6, 2016 at 4:01 PM

        They’re looking for equal or better production, absolutely, but I’m convinced what the coaches like about Kory isn’t his body but his mind. Kory has already topped out physically, but he remains a good line-caller, a savvy tactician and a calm veteran presence. The mental attributes buy him time and a measure of respect, especially when his younger contenders are still learning the nuances of the position.

      • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 1:39 AM

        I think organizations always want to replace guys with younger, cheaper versions. Assuming they can play as good or better. But just because they’re trying other guys at center doesn’t mean they’re specifically out to replace Kory. They could just want to make sure they have the best backup center possible. Especially with Kory’s age and health. Now if Long just happened to start playing really well then, sure, they would start him in a heartbeat. But I don’t think that’s proof they want Kory gone.

  3. colorofmyskinz - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:28 AM

    Looks like Long has a way to go for center. Good to have a battle between Luavao, Long, Lichtensteiger, Arie. Sure would be nice to have a better center option.

    I think everyone knows that Su’a’s placement at ILB is just a development role. Once he learns the playbook he will be moved to Safety. He will be playing SS no doubt and will be floating between all of those positions Barry mentioned. I really don’t think Sua will be penciled in under the ILB depth come September. Once he learns the playbook from the ILB vantage point, we will watch him challenge Bruton for a spot. One thing is for certain, they will be looking for a way to put him on the field, and it will most likely not be at ILB.

    We are deep at many defensive positions now. Great to see finally!!

  4. celeoinc - Jun 6, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    Let’s face it, everybody knows that Lichtensteiger can’t be counted for the entire season. Plus he’s is not that good. It would be irresponsible to believe that he can play 16 games. He’s injury prone, not young, and small. Of course he wil get injured. I’m not being negative just being logical.

    • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:41 PM

      “It would be irresponsible to believe that he can play 16 games.”
      Why? He started and played ALL 16 games from 2012-2014.

      Personally, I don’t think any player associated with nerve damage should be expected to play every snap but let’s not perpetrate a fraud on Lichtensteiger. 54 straight starts including the 2012 playoff game from the start of 2012 through week 5 of last year is NOT injury prone.

  5. mtskins - Jun 6, 2016 at 10:09 AM

    Not sure exactly where Long is struggling either with getting to his blocks after snapping the ball, or being able to read the defense and call assignments, etc. but sounds like he has a ways to go before he is a potential starter there. Have been hoping from a miraculous leap from Reiter after he bulked up but know it is a long shot to happen. Doesn’t seem like the team wants to give him more reps there yet at the expense of Long’s growth. Tough to keep Reiter on the roster unless he wins the starting outright or is able to back up the guard position as well.

    • kenboy99 - Jun 6, 2016 at 10:53 AM

      There is nothing easy about learning to play center! So many people talk like it’s just switching where you line up and forget that little detail of actually having to consistently get good snaps to the QB as well as handle increased blocking and assignment calling responsibilities. There are a lot of good guards that just can’t hack it.

      • mtskins - Jun 6, 2016 at 1:12 PM

        Right. So that’s why I was curious what the issues are in his progression. Coming out in the draft Long’s profile read as a best “in a phone booth type” player with average athleticism. So I am wondering if he lacks the natural ability to play the center position or if he continues to work at it he can learn the position and polish the areas he needs to in order to be effective at the position.

        • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 2:02 AM

          Because no draft profile has ever been wrong?

      • goback2rfk - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:12 PM

        Most footballers will agree the 2 toughest positions on the field are QB and Center

        We need a Center and we need a Safety and a few other odds and ends but this team is coming together. It all rests on the arm of the spartan legend. Do the Redskins trust him? I don’t think so.. The franchise tag will tell you that.

        • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 2:02 AM

          That’s quite the leap. They offered Cousins a long-term contract worth a lot of money. You don’t do that if you don’t trust him. It’s not like they just tagged him and that’s it. You have to be prepared to pay that contract and live with the guy the next 3-5 seasons if you offer it.

          Now, the money just so happened to not be enough for Cousins right now. So that’s why he’s playing on the franchise tag. But they’re still negotiating. That’s a sign that they do trust him and want him. I believe I read they went as high as 18 mil a year before finally tagging him. You don’t offer any player a long-term 18 mil a year contract if you don’t trust him.

          Oh, and you can quit calling him a Spartain now. He’s been a Redskin for 5 years. Longer than he was ever as MSU.

        • John - Jun 8, 2016 at 1:07 AM

          The tag was all about getting the other signings squared and using the tag as a short term patch to provide time to work out a long term deal. The money is in line, their arguing over term. Kirk wants long term security and I’m sure the team is trying to accommodate that but wants exit ramps for flexibility as big contracts can hamper the overall budget for players.

          Right now, there are veery few young up and coming quality QBs. Had they not used the tag, Denver would have signed Kirk. All they needed was a QB. Dallas could have signed him as Romo is getting up there. Most of the “franchise QBs” are in their mid to upper 30s. Peyton Manning crashed at 38. Its only a matter of time before some of the others start to fall off. Put it this way, if Kirk is not say top 10, where does he fit among the up and coming? If you don’t spend the money to keep him, it will cost you more.
          If you think we should have kept Robert, your off your rocker. If you think they should run with McCoy, your crazy. McCoy is fine for a couple of games as a backup. Robert may start in Cleveland but I don’t see that lasting.

        • Trey Gregory - Jun 8, 2016 at 2:48 AM

          John, for once, we agree. Everything you said was on point.

          Except that point about RG3 in Cleveland. I don’t think we should have kept RG3 but I can see him being a decent starter again. It’s iffy in Cleveland because of the team around him. So it really depends on how Cleveland handles him. But if some thing fall in place… Yes, I can see RG3 being at least an average starter again.

  6. John - Jun 6, 2016 at 3:14 PM

    So much for AK at guard. Just because you played at Bama and they had a good line in college it does not mean you’ll be the big man in the pros. Reiter is also an afterthought at this point. He may have been healthy and played in a lot if games in college, he also is not moving up anytime soon. Hell, even Long may find himself back on the bench if Lavauo is healthy.

    I agree we need an upgrade at center but until someone steps up and takes the job from Kory, not much will change on the line. Remember AK and AR practice players last year. AR was a 7th rounder. One or both will be on the practice squad or gone. We all like an underdog but to think otherwise of these practice squad players is foolish.

    The same goes for Powe and some of the balleyhooed defensive practice squad specialists.

    • bangkokben - Jun 6, 2016 at 6:29 PM

      Neither Kouandjio nor Reiter are afterthoughts. They’re players in development. Both are late round draft picks (4th and 7th) entering their second years. The organization has realistic plans and paths for them. This notion that guys come into the NFL ready no matter where they are drafted is why Shanahan is coaching as many NFL games this season as you and I.

      As you know, college offenses are vastly different than NFL offenses and these differences compound the need for development — especially at certain positions (i.e. quarterback, tight-end, o-line) more now than ever before. Many college o-linemen are rarely in three point stances and if they are, like Kouandjiio, they spend most of their time blocking lightweight defenders that lack both NFL quality and NFL scheme. Kouandjio will make the team AGAIN this year — even without effort — and Reiter has an excellent chance at remaining on the practice squad. If either of them make it farther than that, hoo-ray; but your prediction of waiving good-bye to players never really here is equally bombastic to expecting these guys to win starting positions.

      • John - Jun 7, 2016 at 1:16 AM

        It all comes down to a game of numbers. If KL is your center and Lavaou and Scherrf the guards and Williams and Moses at tackle, then you have 3 backups who can play more than 1 position. I see 1 swing tackle, a guard who can play guard or tackle and a center/guard. So Long gets a backup spot. One of the backup tackles will have a spot and with AK or AR or Leribus gets a spot. The last spot would be a long snapper.

        While I grant that the level of competition varies at the college level and the offenses are geared to take advantage of the disparity of talent as well as the way the field is set up, the guys coming up can’t languish indefinitely. Back during their heyday, “the hogs” were the template for NFL lines but from time to time players were brought in that were upgrades over existing players (RC Thielman, Rick Donnelly and Jim Lachey). In some cases it kept backups from moving up (Raleigh Mackenzie) and others were benched or moved (Bostic and Jacoby). It is not unreasonable to expect that if Scott M comes across a lineman, when the Skins draft or falls in their lap like Norman and Jackson that guys like AK and AR would be hitting the road.

        • bangkokben - Jun 7, 2016 at 8:32 AM

          John, Here is where we disagree. You have eight o-linemen and I have your eight plus one — usually a draft pick that is inactive for most of the year. Last year it was Kouandjio. The year before it was Long. This year they didn’t draft any o-linemen but with the abolition of the fullback position and the superfluousness of the 3rd QB, even with an extra tight-end there isn’t likely a position that takes away the ninth 0-linemen. The roster is usually 25 offense, 25 defense and three special teamers (K, P, an LS). For arguments sake, you only keep eight, the Redskins are still keeping their 4th round pick from last year, their 3rd round pick from two years ago, and a swing tackle.

          No one is “languishing indefinitely” on the roster — unless you’re referring to Tom Compton or Josh LeRibeus but they were Shanahan picks. Compton has moved on and LeRibeus is on a one-year deal that would cost the team all of $80K to release. Reiter has never made the roster and Kouandjio is a 4th round pick in his SECOND year. He would have to be wretched for the Redskins to part ways with him.

          “It is not unreasonable to expect that if Scott M comes across a lineman … guys like AK and AR would be hitting the road.” Take that statement indefinitely, of course not. What IS unreasonable is expecting that Scot M would indeed come across such a linemen at this particular time and thinking that 13 months after being drafted is languishing.

    • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 1:56 AM

      Why do people do this? Why do they want to cut guys, especially lower round draft picks, after 1-2-3 seasons? They’re drafted to be prospects.

      You get into cap trouble by cutting your draft picks. Because these guys cost nothing. Who cares if a 7th round pick never starts? If he becomes a solid depth player then you have a good thing. Everything Bang said is right on I just wanted to add the money aspect to it. You keep them as backups for 4 years then let them walk in free agency if you don’t think they’re worth keeping around.

      There’s also an element of compensatory picks you can take advantage of. You don’t get a comp pick if you cut a guy after 3 years. But if you wait until he’s a free agent then another team signs him, now you’re working toward those picks.

      But just to reiterate what Bang said. They’re SUPPOSED to take time to develop. That’s why they’re 4th-7th round guys. If they were more ready they would have been taken higher. And even a 3rd rounder at certain positions, like the OLine, is going to struggle for a while because of everything Bang said. Just relax with all these talks of cutting out homegrown guys.

      • goback2rfk - Jun 7, 2016 at 11:56 AM

        The NFL is moving more and more towards turn key players that are ready to go straight on the field out of college.
        The NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’ A player does not get or deserve years to develop into something.
        Either they prove they stand out from the rest rather quickly or move on.

        • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 2:48 PM

          @goback: you say that like it’s a fact. But it’s not. Look through the roster of every single team. They all have later round guys sitting there as backups. I’ll refer you to the reply I just have to John. But again, not every player on the team can start. That doesn’t mean we should cut the guys who aren’t starting.

          Who’s going to replace them? And how do you propose finding guys we can use as backups but not pay too much? You can throw catch phrases around all you want. But the NFL stands for the National Football League. It’s not an organization run by impatient fans (thank god). You’re just out of your mind wrong if you think teams expect their 5th round picks to be starters by year two.

          The guys who actually do this for a living (including McCloughan) all say you fill out your roster in day 3 of the draft. Only 22 guys start. But you still need quality depth and special teams players. They say you’re doing good if you find 3 starters out of every draft. And it’s unreal to get 5 starters. But those special teams and backup roles have to be filled out by someone. And you’re going to be in cap hell if you’re spending 2-3 mil on every backup. So come on. Let’s get over this. It’s not unusual that a 5th round linemen isn’t ready to start by year two.

      • John - Jun 7, 2016 at 12:34 PM

        I understand your point. My point is its great that e eryone is excited about AK but to this point we got bothing. Its great that AR wants to be “the guy” but he has to prove it on the field. Regarding compensatory picks, you have to actually do something to be signed away so your team can get a pick in return. If Scott M does’nt see growth and likes big linemen he’ll find replacements and is pretty good about plugging holes. This is the Not For Long league after all.

        • Trey Gregory - Jun 7, 2016 at 2:39 PM

          I get what you’re saying John. It’s just premature. Honestly, I’m not (and never was) that excited about Kouandjo. He was a 5th round pick for a reason. I never expected him to start. But the reality is that not all drafted players are meant to be starters. However, that doesn’t mean they need to be cut. Teams need depth. And you can’t build a championship roster of you’re buying your backups in free agency. They’re going to cost more than a 5th round pick. Good teams build depth through the draft.

          So who cares if he’s not ready to start? Is he good enough to keep around as the backup? Probably. You only get rid of these guys if they’re downright awful, so the coaches don’t believe they have any future, or because you’ve drafted their replacement. As in there’s somebody better waiting to take their spot. Every now and then you sign a great FA, and have other young players at the same position, so you have to cut someone (like Amerson after we picked up Culliver and our young guys stepped up). But that’s far more rare than holding on to these guys through the duration of their rookie contract. You’re going to get into cap problems if you’re trying to have 8 offensive linemen who can start unless they’re all homegrown.

          There’s only 5 starting spots. But we still need quality depth. Who’s going to be the backup LG if we get rid of Long and Kouandjo? It’s easy to say “we should cut them” but much harder to replace them with a quality player who doesn’t cost too much.

          And, again, he was a 2015 5th round pick. He’s not supposed to be ready yet. It’s just way too soon to pass judgement on this guy. It’s time for Long to prove what he is. But I’ll remind you that he did start last year. And he played decent by the end of the year. Long could actually end up being the starter and Kouandjo could be the primary backup by the time the season starts. We don’t know yet. But people are saying they need to be cut because it’s June and neither have been named the starter yet. It’s absurd guys. Come on.

      • John - Jun 8, 2016 at 12:45 AM

        My point is folks get all amped up about guys who are/were on the practice squad. They were there because they were not good enough to be backups, much less on the regular roster. If they were to get cut loose, nobody would know the difference. I’m not saying dump them and sign other teams free agents. What I am saying is they are bubble players and if someone better were to come along via cuts, etc., they could easily be replaced, just as easily by way of a better rookie out of the draft next year if they don’t start to show something.

  7. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jun 6, 2016 at 5:00 PM

    So DeSean is in camp.
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