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  Phins.com Interview with LT Jake Long
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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It has only been 13 games, but it is obvious that the Miami Dolphins chose wisely when they selected Michigan tackle Jake Long with the first overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. At 6-7 and 310lb, Long has all the physical tools and intangibles to be an elite fixture at left tackle for many years to come.


Usually it takes a rookie, even a highly regarded one, time to adjust to the pro game. Somewhat surprisingly, Long is already garnering accolades as one of the best at his position. In fact, he was actually leading Pro Bowl voting at left tackle when the fan voting closed out this week (coaches and players will complete the voting this week).


While his pass blocking has been solid, Long readily admits that he needs more work to become more proficient at handling the wide variety of moves and counters that pro defensive players bring to the table. Meanwhile, his run blocking, the bread and butter of his game, has already caught the attention of insiders across the NFL. One metrics guru, ESPN's K.C. Joyner, has Long's run blocks pegged at a 96.6% success rate. Joyner told The Miami Herald that "(it's) the highest I've seen in three years doing metrics."


Head Coach Tony Sparano, a former offensive line coach, is effusive in his praise of Long. "I've been very impressed with what Jake has done", said Sparano. "Jake, every single week, has gotten better at what he's done. He knows he has a long way to go, but this guy is all about work. He's everything that we talk about (tough, smart, disciplined) and that's why he'll be a good player here."


Added General Manager Jeff Ireland, "When we look back at the 2008 draft, we will be saying we hit on Jake Long. I'm certain of that."


The sky is the limit for Long. He has the work ethic, character, talent, intelligence, toughness, and discipline to become the greatest tackle in team history. It's up to him to reach that potential. Right now, nothing seems to be too big for the former Wolverine.


I caught up with Long at the Miami Dolphins Training Facility in Davie to get his take on how he's been able to make the transition from college to the NFL so quickly.


On how his rookie season has gone versus his own expectations

My expectations were to come in, start, help the offensive line get better, and get better myself every week. I feel like I'm getting more comfortable, getting better every single week. I'm never satisfied with how I do; I'm very hard on myself.


On how he's been holding up as a rookie with the longer NFL season

I feel good. I've been taking care of my body real well, getting in the cold tub (to reduce swelling from contact in practices and games), resting, (and) just keeping myself as healthy as I can.


On how he's had to change his preparation to handle the longer NFL season

Just make sure I stay in good shape. Eating good so I have good energy. Getting my rest and taking care of my body; getting in the cold tub, getting treatment whenever I need it and just staying as healthy as I can.


On the difficulty of facing great pass rushers every week

It's not hard. We prepare every week and go against great players (in practice). You're going up against a grown man every single day, every single game. I love that challenge and I always try to get up for that challenge. On game day, everybody's jacked up. So I always make sure I do everything I can during the week to prepare, watch film, and try to know my opponent as much as I can so when I go out there, there's no surprises.


On what he's seen in the NFL, technique-wise that he didn't see in college

The biggest thing is the defensive ends I go against. They have everything it seems. In college, one guy might have a good bull rush, one guy might just have an up-field move. These guys (pros) have counters (to their first move), they're strong, they're fast…a lot faster. So I've just got to prepare for everything. I've got caught up at times with spin moves inside and some speed rushers. It's just the complex moves everybody has.


On his impressions of South Florida

I haven't really had much time to explore South Florida. Down in Ft Lauderdale, where I live, the restaurants, the shops, downtown, it's beautiful around there. In the offseason, I'd love to have more time to do more exploring.



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