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NFL Weekend: Chris Long Could Have A Career Year In 2015...

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I've been a fan of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long since his 2008 NFL Draft day. Taken #2 overall, Long became the first of many building blocks for the Rams defense...

Long's had to bare the tinge team disappointment since he arrived in St. Louis. Let's face it: The last six seasons have been tough on the win/loss side. Now one of the elder statesmen for a still very young Rams team, Long could find himself in an amazing position in 2015. Signed through 2016, Long is coming off an injury year in 2014. He played in only 6 games, with a single quarterback sack to show for it.

Stats courtesy of NFL.com

CAREER STATSMORE
Season Team Tackles Interceptions Fumbles
G GS Comb Total Ast Sck SFTY PDef Int Yds Avg Lng TDs FF
2014 St. Louis Rams 6 6 5 5 0 1.0 -- 0 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 0
2013 St. Louis Rams 16 16 40 33 7 8.5 0 2 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 1
2012 St. Louis Rams 16 16 33 25 8 11.5 -- 0 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 0
2011 St. Louis Rams 16 16 37 31 6 13.0 -- 2 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 1
2010 St. Louis Rams 16 16 29 26 3 8.5 -- 3 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 3
2009 St. Louis Rams 16 4 43 33 10 5.0 -- 1 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 1
2008 St. Louis Rams 16 16 40 32 8 4.0 -- 0 -- -- 0.0 -- -- 1
TOTAL 227 185 42 51.5 0 8 0 0 -- 0 0 7

Game stats don't tell the whole story for the the veteran Rams defensive end. Former San Francisco defensive coordinator Greg Roman labeled Long as "a rolling ball of butcher knives", and rightly so. You see, what Long has going for him is his motor; that unrelenting, half-crazed, physical will to go all out on every play. A hefty salary cap hit over the next two years for the Rams, Long is scheduled to make a whole bunch of money, and he's worth every penny. He's "The Guy" on the Rams' blossoming defense; the one who changes everything when he's on the field. Without him, St. Louis' talent laden defense sputtered in 2014. I liken him to recently retire 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith, and Long could very well play in the NFL at a high level for quite a few more years.

Long's love of the game is what makes me a fan of the former Virginia star. Now 30 years old, he's poised to hit a stride that very well may be extraordinary. Well rested after sitting out most of the 2014, the right defensive end has to be bursting at the seams to get this coming season started. Classy, and Twitter-loquacious at times, Long is the linch-pin for the Rams defense. He's passionate, and know the game inside and out. Rams fans may recall the rough and tumble game in 2013 with the Carolina Panthers? In a game that saw Sam Bradford go down with the first of his two ACL injuries that unknowingly marked the beginning of the end of his tenure with St. Louis, Long's frustration boiled over:

The Carolina Panthers' 30-15 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Week 7 was memorably chippy. The game was marred by a number of skirmishes, personal fouls and most notably, the ejection of Rams defensive end Chris Long. But cheap shots are not without consequences in today's player-safety conscious NFL. The league fined five players – including two Panthers – a total of $47,250 for their actions in last Sunday's game.

Long received the biggest fine – a $15,750 penalty for throwing a punch at offensive lineman Chris Scott early in the third quarter... - Jesse Collins, SportsMedia101.com

Moving forward to the 2015 season, Long has to like the right offensive tackles he'll be facing. Plus, he now has a young guy named Aaron Donald to his right, and a seasoned Alec Ogletree on his outside. Robert Quinn knows all too well how important Long's presence is on the field. When Long went down with an ankle injury is September of last year, Quinn struggled to get to the quarterback.

The bottom line, is Chris Long has a stage set for him in 2015 that could be a sight to see...