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Spencer Long Ready To Take Center Stage Again


Back at practice, Washington's starting center wants to prove he hasn't missed a step. His first challenge will be stopping Philadelphia's fearsome front seven if active Sunday.

For 11 months, Spencer Long has been Washington's man at center after transitioning from guard in 2016.

The change has not been easy for Long, who exceled at the position but had to take time away from the field for an arthroscopic knee surgery. After being sidelines for the last two preseason games, Long hopes to ready to retake his position and lead the offensive line against the Philadelphia Eagles Sept. 10 at FedEx Field.

"I'm feeling really good," Long said. "Knee's healing in there great and two weeks of rehab, I worked really hard to get back. It just feels good to get out there again and start practicing."

Nagging injuries kept Long from facing the Eagles' defensive line during Washington's 27-22 victory in Philadelphia back in December. Long said sitting on the sideline was the last place he wanted to be.

"It was honestly pretty stressful, just sitting there and thinking about all of the what-if's," he said. "All I could do is rehab, but I just miss playing ball. It was kind of a humbling experience for me, so it just gave me the fight to get back on the field as fast as I could."

Now returned to form, Long has focused on the task at hand: fending off Philadelphia's viscous defensive line, led by tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan. In the Redskins and Eagles' last meeting, Cox recorded three tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Jernigan, meanwhile, came to the Eagles after spending three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. As a Raven, he recorded 13 career sacks and notched four tackles during Washington and Baltimore's meeting last October.

"That one-two combo in there with Jernigan and Cox is going to be a challenge," Long said. "They're two of the best D-linemen in the league, and together on the same D-line, they're going to present some challenges. We've just got to be ready to roll."

One of the areas of concerns surrounding the Redskins' offense has been the running game. During the first two preseason games, Washington's tailbacks gained a combined 103 yards. Despite the slow start, the running game picked up in the last half of preseason and the offense recorded 172 total yards on the ground.

Long did not participate in those games, but stepped aside to let backup Chase Roullier lead the offensive line. Long said he was impressed with the way Roullier rose to the challenge and improved in each contest.

"Chase did a great job. He stepped up in there without a hitch," Long said. "Our offense is running smoothly and played great against the Bengals. I think that while he's up, our coach is saying 'We've got a good backup.' He's someone who can be a starting center caliber in this league."

The dynamics of the game will change dramatically come Sunday, when the starters retake the field and the offensive line is pitted against Philadelphia's front seven. Long, while acknowledging his own contributions, emphasized the importance of playing as a single unit to protect the backfield.

"It's just being consistent," Long said. "All 11 guys clicking on all cylinders, and that means back-timing on the offensive line, not missing blocks, the edges holding up, the tight ends knowing their assignments. It just takes everybody. To have an efficient run game in this league, everyone's got to be on a hat and on their assignments. That's what we've got to do."

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