FOXBORO -- Chris Long handled his responsibilities without a peep. It might not have been the best way to use his skill set, in his eyes, but it was what Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia wanted him to do. So, he did it. And in Super Bowl LI he drew a fourth-quarter holding penalty that helped him earn his first Super Bowl ring.
Last season in New England, Long was asked to play more on the inside despite being more accustomed to aligning wide. He often played as a five-technique with the Patriots, which means he was asked to play head-up on opposing offensive tackles. And because the Patriots typically ask their linemen to two-gap and focus on stopping the run, Long wasn't able to pin his ears back in quite the same way he did in St. Louis.
"At the end of the day, I wanted to get back to playing football the way I played for a long time," Long said at a press conference after joining the Eagles last offseason. "It was a blessing to be a part of the Patriots last year, but I wanted to be in a situation where I can prove myself all over again."
MORE SUPER BOWL:
He added: "We played a lot of nine technique, seven technique [with the Rams]. It was definitely closer to what we do here. I fit in well. For me, the No. 1 thing going into free agency was to find a good football fit. Schematically, this is a fit for my skill set."
Now, with a full season in Philly under his belt, it's hard to argue with the choice Long made. Playing in the Eagles rotation on the defensive line, Long finished the year with five sacks, four forced fumbles, 18 quarterback hits and 38 hurries, per Pro Football Focus.
Even Belichick, who could've used some edge help this season, didn't blame Long for choosing Philadelphia as a free agent.
"Yeah, I think his defensive role is similar to what it was when was with the Rams," Belichick said. "Chris has a lot of good skills, but his overall skill set and experience is probably more in -- it definitely is more in the system that he’s in than it was in our system, which is closer to the system that he played in with the Rams.
"He did a great job for us. Look, there was no better teammate or guy that tried to embrace the program than Chris, but in the end, he probably has a better fit there for his skills and for this point in his career than maybe we had for him. I understand that. He probably made a good decision. He probably did."
Unfortunately for Belichick, now he has to prepare for Long, who is coming off an impressive performance against the Vikings with two quarterback hits and five hurries. That Long makes up the deepest defensive line group the Patriots will see this season, makes the challenge all the more difficult.
Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry, Timmy Jernigan, Derek Barnett, Beau Allen and Brandon Graham will rotate in and out, providing the Patriots a steady dose disruptive players with relatively fresh legs. Even if only four are on the field at any one time, their front-four is more of an octet.
"Yeah, it’s a lot more than four," Belichick said. "I wish it was just four. Yeah, it’s about eight, nine. It’s a very disruptive group. They’re hard to run against, hard to throw against. Again, they’re well coached, very instinctive. Screens and plays like that that you think will take the edge off the pass rush don’t look as good. When you run them they don’t look as good as what you think they’re going to look like . . .
ALSO ON NBCSPORTSBOSTON.COM
"A lot of times they blow those plays up, too. They do a good job. They’ve got a lot of good players. They have good inside rushers. They have good outside rushers."
And even though that wasn't exactly Long's full-time role in New England, Belichick is fully aware that his former five-technique is among the latter.