Here is the most obvious statement you will read all day: Chris Long is good. You knew that already. Fans here have watched the St. Louis Rams defensive end grow into a fearsome pass rusher off the edge. Now, we have the numbers to backup what we already knew, thanks to a little research from the gang over at Pro Football Focus.
Check it out.
PFF broke down the numbers for edge rushers over the last three years in a Monday feature. Long saw more snaps as a pass rusher than all but five of his peers around the league, 1,429 in total. Jared Allen led that category with 1,638, but the four players between him and Long are all pretty close.
The Rams relied heavily on their defensive line over that same period, which coincided with Steve Spagnuolo's tenure as head coach. Spags had a proclivity for rushing the passer, partly as philosophy and partly to mask weaknesses elsewhere in the defense.
Long proved to be pretty productive in those snaps. He and Allen tied for the fourth most pressures - a combo of sacks, hits and hurries - with 195 over the last three years. When you look at the list of players among the top 10 in that category, it's a mighty impressive group, including names like Cameron Wake, Tamba Hali, Demarcus Ware, Julius Peppers, etc.
Dividing Long's total pressures into the number of pass rushing snaps he saw gives him a pass rushing productivity score of 10.69, which ranks 13th.
Long is the senior man on the Rams line this year. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers laughed a knowing chuckle when asked last week by TST what it was like to play with Long.
"Interesting," Brockers said. "He's a good guy a heart and I love him, but he's a little awkward at the same time. He's a wonderful guy."
This season is the last year of Long's rookie contract, and the Rams have made it clear that they would like to keep him on the team for years to come. That's going to cost them. St. Louis could use the franchise tag next season, but they'll still have to pay him if they want to keep him.
I've said before that the deal Chicago gave to Julius Peppers in 2010 is not an unreasonable cost for Long, given what pass rushers make these days, and Long has been as productive, if not more so, than Peppers over the last three seasons. Peppers got a six-year, $84 million contract with $42 million guaranteed.
Of course, that deal will be three years old by the time Long and the Rams have to make a decision. A more recent precedent might be what the Bills gave Mario Williams this year, a six-year, $96 million deal with $50 million guaranteed.
Think that's a ridiculous comparison? Think about this: through four years, Long is averaging 7.62 sacks per season; Williams is averaging 8.83 sacks per year. Over the last five years he has averaged 65 total pressures per season. The numbers on Williams are skewed because he missed most of last season. During his last three years, he averaged 45 pressures per season.
We'll see what Long does this season, but with a beefed up defensive line the biggest threat to his performance might be Robert Quinn or the defensive tackles stealing a few sacks.