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Know Thy Enemy: Chris Long

In 2007, the St. Louis Rams were truly a dreadful, dreadful squad. The utter disaster of the 2006 draft class, combined with an often inept offense and putrid defensive play, left the Rams badly in need of something, anything, along the defensive line.

With a 3-13 record, the Rams truly earned the 2nd overall pick of the 2008 NFL Draft. And with it, they drafted DE Chris Long from the University of Virginia. Chris, the son of Hall of Fame DE Howie Long, has started every single game since being drafted.

Unfortunately for the Rams, Long did not solve their offensive woes. After going 3-13 in 2007, St. Louis would go 2-14 in 2008 and 1-15 in 2009. Last year, the Rams won more games in a season (7) than they had the previous 3 combined. Sadly, the last year's goodwill has worn off; the Rams are winless through 2011, a product of a brutal schedule and terrible offensive line play.

Long's most successful season to date was last year; in 2010, Long recorded 8.5 sacks and 29 combined tackles from the defensive end position. But 2010 didn't start out so well for Long; he was held without a sack for the first three games of the regular season. Chris was blanked entirely from the scoreboard in Week 1 against Arizona in a 17-13 loss that came back to haunt the Rams late in the season. He recorded 3 tackles against Oakland in Week 2, and just one tackle against Washington in Week 3.

Week 4, 2010: Long finally got to a QB, recording a half-sack and four tackles against the Seattle Seahawks in a 20-3 pasting. The next week, as the Rams were shelled by the Detroit Lions in a 44-6 blowout, Long was held to two tackles. Against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers, Long brought down Philip Rivers for two sacks for a grand total of 16 yards lost.

Hard luck again hit the Rams in Week 7; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fairly stole a W from the Rams with a go-ahead TD pass in the final twenty seconds of the 4th quarter. Long sacked Josh Freeman, forcing a fumble that the Buccaneers recovered for a loss of 14 yards. Against the luckless Panthers in Week 8, Long recovered a fumble by WR Steve Smith to set up a TD, and sacked Matt Moore to force another fumble.

Long's sack streak came to an end against the Atlanta Falcons, but he still recorded 2 tackles. Against Denver, Long recorded a critical sack on the final Broncos drive of the game, one that pushed Denver back and forced Kyle Orton into throwing three consecutive incomplete passes on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th downs. St. Louis held on despite allowing 20 points in the 4th quarter.

Over his next two games against New Orleans and Arizona, Long would not record a sack and had two combined tackles over two games. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, however, Long stopped up Matt Cassel for a sack, his 7th full sack of the season. With the playoffs in sight, Long recorded two more tackles and a sack in a 25-17 Rams win over the rival 49ers in the Edward Jones Dome. However, Long, and the rest of the Rams, found their season coming to an end when they lost to Seattle in Week 17. Long would not record a sack and had just one tackle in the season-ending defeat.

Long finished 2010 with 8.5 sacks, a career-high, and 29 combined tackles (26 assisted). Over the course of this season, Long has three sacks in St. Louis's first four games and eight tackles. With the status of Packer OTs Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton, Long could be primed for a breakout game; Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod will have to keep Chris away from Aaron Rodgers.