The Buffalo Bills have been busy signing players, and nowhere is that more evident than on the offensive line. The first lineman signed is the final one to get the all-22 treatment. former New York Jets lineman Spencer Long was picked up over a month ago and was regarded as a move to give the Bills flexibility as they moved forward. Long is considered able to play all three interior spots, but has seen the most work at center and left guard. We’ll look at both, but with Mitch Morse the likely starter at center, left guard gets the focus.
Everyone seemed to get a kick out of Ty Nsekhe knocking around Jadeveon Clowney so here’s Spencer Long giving him a nice shot too. All linemen will be faced with the predicament of “no one to block” from time to time. Long does the right thing initially by spreading his arms and preparing to shift laterally to help out to either side. Jadeveon Clowney is getting a quick victory off the left tackle and Long reacts immediately. The reaction time and speed to make the hit are notable.
Long makes solid contact with his right hand on Clowney’s chest. Generally speaking, while rerouting a defender can be intentional, it’s unlikely Long would be attempting to get Clowney to run into his center, Jonotthan Harrison’s back. The suggestion then is that Long struggled to slow down or stop Clowney.
Spencer Long is best when he’s using a bump-and-run style like we see here. Momentary collisions followed by a quick release while heading to a new target make good use of his reaction time and ability to create good initial contact.
This play wasn’t selected to poke fun at Spencer Long, but rather to highlight how subtle the game in the trenches can become. Long can be inconsistent in shoving matches which often leads to shifting weight too far to one direction. In this case, Long is leaning in too far, potentially overcompensating to avoid being stretched back and walked toward his quarterback. However, with Long already a little too far forward, Montravius Adams only need that little pull on Long’s shoulder to create this result.
Here’s further evidence of Long doing well on the move. Pulling to the left side, Long is quickly ahead of the play. As the play develops, Long identifies who to eliminate and takes a good angle to make sure that his running back won’t be tackled from that angle.
These familiar faces will give a good idea of what to expect from Long. In this one play, Spencer Long gets to match up against rookies Harrison Phillips and Tremaine Edmunds. In both case, Long is very good about being the low man and handles both first-year players pretty well. Long has help with Phillips and Edmunds disengages with sheer strength.
Here’s a good one play summary of left guard Spencer Long courtesy of the legend Kyle Williams. Long is susceptible to losing some ground on the first step. Kyle is notorious for having an excellent first step and this starts off as one-sided. Long reacts well to get a hand on Kyle’s chest but is losing ground in the power game as well. Long provides adequate protection for Sam Darnold but the quarterback should have a good mental clock.
Let’s take a peek at center with Long matched up against Davon Godchaux. Both players are very similarly sized. Long stays low and keeps working his hand,s but Godchaux is gaining ground. Like we saw at left guard, adequate technique and average strength lead to the kind of protection that speeds up the timer for the quarterback by a tick or so.
With just a little bit of help, Long holds up Godchaux for an extended period of time in what’s a clear victory for the offensive linemen. The timer in the GIF highlights the time from the very first movement of the ball to first contact with a defender. In about a third of a second, Long needs to snap the ball successfully and pop back up to get into the play.
Just like we saw at guard, Spencer Long is at his best on the move. Long routinely makes good contact with his initial hit(s) which is advantageous for blocking on the move. Maintaining blocks leads to the bulk of concerns with Long, and this blocking style mitigates the risk.
Spencer Long is unlikely to be considered an exciting signing. Long is generally capable and can fill in across a few roles. With the high number of needs on the offensive line heading into the 2019 season it’s certainly not a bad idea to bring in a player like Spencer Long. At worst, the Bills will have merely played musical chairs with depth players. And it can’t be ruled out that Long will be more successful with a change of scenery.