I'm not sure how it happened, or when, but I've become the internet's staunchest supporter of Washington State linebacker/defensive end Travis Long. Well, except for probably this guy:
- via blog.seattlepi.com (no one is condoning animal cruelty; that's a Washington Husky, WSU's rival mascot)
For those of you who don't know who I'm talking about, Long made a splash his senior year putting up 8.5 sacks as an outside linebacker/defensive end in WSU's hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense. He was considered a mid-to-late-round prospect going into the 2013 NFL draft but slipped due to medical concerns.
You see, Long tore his ACL in November of 2012, around the same time as Cornellius Carradine and Quanterus Smith. Those guys were selected in the second and fifth rounds, respectively. The Cardinals' own O'Brien Schofield tore his ACL in January leading up to the 2010 draft, and was drafted in the fourth round.
These injuries happen and they do hurt a player's draft stock. Many were talking about Carradine and Schofield as potential first-round prospects prior to their injuies. Long didn't have that kind of hype but he's still a good prospect.
Intelligent and instinctual, usually contains on the edge and sniffs out screens and bootlegs well. Flashes quick and strong hands to pop off blocks outside, can also spin out of blocks when needed. Possesses enough short-area agility to handle coverage duties as a linebacker, also physical against running backs and tight ends in space. Bullish pass rusher, gets his hands on his man’s numbers to drive him backwards. Most sacks comes from his relentless effort. Hustles... solid tackler.
Not a physically dominating defender. Lean build. Flexibility and get-off are not exceptional, does not have an elite first step or turn the corner with regularity. Straight-speed and agility will be tested when covering NFL tight ends in space.
- via NFL.com
Highly instinctive, passionate player with natural pass rush savvy. Lanky athlete with the frame to add significant muscle mass and still maintain his quickness. At least adequate initial quickness off the snap from the three point stance to get the pass blocker shuffling and has good lateral agility and flexibility to counter. Possesses long arms to keep the pass blocker free from his chest-plate and locates the football quickly, quickly discarding the block to pursuit laterally and downfield. Surprisingly stout at the point of attack, showing a good understanding of leverage to hold up, as well as good agility to twist his way free.
Is not explosive off the snap... and makes the majority of his plays based simply on effort and good vision to locate the ball.
- via CBSSports
Alert, heads-up rusher with a good motor who will fight through multiple blocks and chase plays down from all over the field. Talented on the rush with an array of efficient swims and spins. He has a good feel for both the pass and rush, disrupting passing lanes with his length even when he can't get home on a blitz. Understands his assignments against the run, keeping containment and fighting through blocks to turn runs inside.
He's a bit lanky but played standing up often and occasionally dropped into coverage in Washington State's 3-4 defense. OLB is where he's at his best. Because he's a bit lanky he gets overpowered and double-teamed too often when lined up with his hand in the dirt. Playing farther outside gives him the opportunity to use his quickness and his hands while giving him more time to read the play, something he does very well.
Tore his ACL in November but is reportedly ahead of schedule on his rehab; sounds like he'll be ready for the season. Does have a history of other relatively minor injuries; started 47 career games, shows toughness playing through dings.
Defensively responsible, high motor. Bit of a finesse rusher with good value for 3-4 teams.
Is he ready to go? According to Cougcenter, "Long would be ahead of schedule as most ACL recoveries are pegged at 9-12 months." That is precisely the case, according to the video at this link. ACL injuries aren't what they used to be, apparently. Quanterus Smith is participating in drills with the Bronco's, and we all know what Adrian Peterson accomplished last year, eight months removed from an ACL/MCL tear.
The Cardinals are in turmoil at OLB right now. Though they filled the roster spots vacated by O'brien Schofield and Tim Fugger, they could do with more camp/preseason depth while Dan Giordano is on the PUP. Long is a good prospect and capable of challenging Zach Nash, Kenny Rowe and Giordano for a spot on the roster or practice squad. Not convinced? See for yourself: game film is available on his official site.