Head coach Jay Gruden believes Spencer Long has the edge to start at left guard in place of the injured Shawn Lauvao this week against the Eagles.
With the news on Tuesday that veteran left guard Shawn Lauvao was heading to IR with a lateral sprain to his left ankle, head coach Jay Gruden told the media Wednesday that Spencer Long has a slight edge over Arie Kouandjio to start in Lauvao's place.
Gruden said he's going to continue to let them compete and get both of them more reps at the position Thursday and Friday before making a final determination on Saturday or Sunday before their matchup with the Eagles.
"It's disappointing. [Lauvao] was playing well," Gruden said. "We've had to deal with this sort of thing for a while now. I think we've got eight or nine guys on IR already. They're all quality players. You hate to lose anybody, but Shawn was playing extremely well, brings a sense of toughness that offensive line room and he'll be missed. But luckily, we have Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio ready to roll."
After Long lost his starting job at right guard to rookie Brandon Scherff early into training camp, Long spent time learning different positions, including left guard and center. His versatility, he says, has helped him find comfort this week.
"I've been flipping for a while, even last year I did, so it's a pretty easy transition," Long said. "Obviously I'm more comfortable at right [guard], but even after today I already am almost back at it, comfortable back at left."
Earlier this week, Long explained how working with assistant strength and conditioning coach Joe Kim throughout the preseason helped with his progression in hand awareness and hand speed. The skillset he acquired aided his quickness punching padded sleds in front of offensive line coach Bill Callahan, whose sharp eye gave Long pointers on his technique.
All of that will come in handy against a physical Philadelphia defensive front that Long says will be a "dog fight" come Sunday.
"Their defensive line does a lot of stunting and how we pick up some of these stunts and eliminate the quick penetration that they have will be crucial as far as how we run the ball," Gruden said. "Every week is tricky, especially with you've got a rookie right guard, now you've got a second-year left guard, second-year right tackle to deal with all these different defensive line spots and movement. It's not easy. We'll grind on them and give it a shot."
Center Kory Lichtensteiger, who will likely be sandwiched between two players with a collective three career starts, believes Long will adjust based on his intelligence and strength. The challenge comes in expediting the learning process.
"You've just got to get used to communicating with a new guy," Lichtensteiger said. "But we're going to have good preparation, we're going to talk through things in practice and meetings so that there's no guessing when it comes to game day."
Long's mentality has never shifted, even as he's accepted his backup role. He's continued to anticipate playing each Sunday for contingencies like this one. Now, it's here.
"Prepare like you're going to play," Long said. "I did that in the offseason and try to get that same mentality even though as a backup, because you never know when something like this happens, you got to be ready to go. That's what I try to do."
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-- Long, Kouandjio Feel Ready To Take On Left Guard Duties