Aside from the signing of Martellus Bennett, the other big splash that the Pats made this offseason was signing the former second-overall pick in 2008. Yes, that’s correct. Chris Long was in fact a top pick and for good reason. This is a player who has put up double digit sacks in two seasons, with his most recent coming in 2012. It is worth noting that this type of production occurred during a time when the then, St. Louis Rams, only won 9 games in that two season span from 2011 to 2012. To put up this type of production in an obvious losing environment is impressive to say the least.
It is without question that even though Long is 31 years of age, he still has just enough talent and skill to provide the Patriots with production at the defensive end position. In St. Louis, Long carried the pressure of being the number two pick and the responsibility of trying to salvage a franchise. Let’s face it, winning football games in St. Louis became very rare after the “greatest show on turf” was bested back in 2001 (wink, wink). In New England, this narrative could not be more of the opposite. There is a system that produces wins in Foxboro, something that Long has never really experienced in his 8-year career. The Patriots have always preached depth and the Pats have depth at this position. Instead of asking Long to play the majority of downs, he will have his workload lightened. At 31 and coming off ankle surgery, I don’t think Long is complaining. At this point in Long’s career he will do anything that the team is asked. After all he did tweet “Whatever it takes” upon signing with New England.
With that said, Long’s fit with New England depends on just that, his workload. I don’t see Long being successful if asked to play every down. With the recent injury scare to Rob Ninkovich, it highlighted the importance of depth at this position. On the bright side, if Trey Flowers can continue to show up like he did in week 1 of the preseason, this will only enhance Long’s production.
Look, Belichick has gambled on aging veterans before. Long comes from a football family and if it is one thing Belichick loves, it is players who love the game of football. Passion breeds success and I think this is exactly what the Pats were thinking when they signed Long.