Chris Long Q&A: Charlottesville situation; Doug Pederson's impact; looking up to dad

Chris Long Q&A: Charlottesville situation; Doug Pederson's impact; looking up to dad

This week hasn't been easy for Chris Long.

He's not having difficulty transitioning to a new team in his first season with the Eagles, but his mind has been on his hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia, where national news has been made because of racial tensions resulting in tragic violence.

Long has made his voice and disappointment heard while focusing on training camp ahead of the 2017 season. The 32-year-old defensive end signed with the Eagles this offseason after winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots in 2016, following eight years with the Rams.

Long sat down with CSN's Quick Slants this week to talk those topics and more. Here's the full conversation:

Quick Slants: The Charlottesville situation. It is where you live right now and I know it hits close to home. Your thoughts on what has gone on down there with all the racial tension?

Long: Well, it's unfortunate, for sure. It's unfortunate to know that subculture exists in America, period. But less importantly, as a resident of Charlottesville, it's really tough to see your city kind of get taken over and for all that hatred to manifest itself right there in your hometown, where you plan on raising your kids and your family, you grew up there. It's a little window I think into what some minorities feel every day, dealing with hate like that. For me, I was just so angry to see it, but this was just one or two days that my hometown's been inundated with hate. I can only imagine what it's like to feel that those people exist all the time.

Quick Slants: OK, on to some football topics now. You come in here as a 10-year vet. Where you stand right now, do you assume the role of leadership or is that still a role that you defer to other players who have been here longer?

Long: I think leadership roles, it's all about leading by example and leading from the front and playing football. So as far as me being a 10-year guy, I plan on playing a lot and I plan on leading on the field. If guys see the way I work and play, and they want to listen to me, the younger players, that's great — I'm always here to help. But make no mistake about it, I came here to play ball and if I can lead along the way, that's great, but this team's got a lot of great leadership.

Quick Slants: How do you like it here so far?

Long: I really like it. Love the city, love the people I've met. The passion, it's palpable — going down to the Linc, practicing a couple times with that big turnout, I love the atmosphere. And we've got good people on this team. We have good people in the locker room and I enjoy the scheme, that's why I came here. Getting to work with guys like [Brandon Graham], [Fletcher Cox], new guys, [Tim Jernigan] coming in with me, young guy like [Derek Barnett]. We really run the gamut of experience and things we've been able to do in this league, and obviously, it's a lot of fun.

Quick Slants: If you can, give us some similarities and differences between the way Bill Belichick and Doug Pederson coach.

Long: Well, I think comparing coaches is like comparing two different players. Their styles are different, the skills are different and their personalities are different. So everybody's different. I learned so much from Bill. That was a special year for me and it was special to learn from him. I've been blessed to have a lot of good coaches, and now getting to see the way Doug works, and as a former player, he gets a lot of things. He's a good person and a good coach. Just today he asked me, 'How are you doing with everything going on at home?' I thought that was pretty cool. He's got high energy and when he walks in the meeting, he makes everybody feel good about working hard — and obviously, he comes from that background.

Quick Slants: Let's talk numbers here, I know you're chasing your dad (Howie Long), he finished with 84 sacks, you've got 58½. The interesting thing is after nine years, you're actually ahead of him, I think 58-55. He got a lot in his later years, had a nine-sack season at like 33. How inspirational is that to you to think that you can keep going strong, as well, late in your career?

Long: Any time you get to be around players that play into their mid-30s — and I've been lucky enough to play with a couple of guys like that — it inspires you because this game is hard enough. As you get older, it becomes harder and harder, and you have to be more of a pro every day. Listen, numbers don't drive everything I do, but you certainly look at those numbers and you're like, 'Hey, I'd love to chase that.' I'll never beat my pops, he's got the gold jacket, but if I can kind of inch closer, that'd be nice. At 32, you never take anything for granted. It's amazing those guys back in those days, did the two-a-days for a month before preseason. They were really tough.

Quick Slants: One final question for you. I know you're a huge "Game of Thrones" fan. You wrote an article for Sports Illustrated and I thought it was deep. How do you like the way the plot is unfolding right now this season?

Long: We were just talking about this — the show is gripping, man. It's almost like you're mad at the show for leaving it where they leave it every week — they have a really good cliffhanger-way of doing things. I thought last week was cool because they were kind of assembling this dream team and you see all of your favorite characters meeting for the first time — it was pretty special. And you couldn't follow that last episode, which was all action, with more of the same — you knew it had to be a filler, but they did a good job.

5 Minutes with Roob: Chris Maragos reveals how he became special teams star

5 Minutes with Roob: Chris Maragos reveals how he became special teams star

In today's "Five Minutes with Roob," Reuben Frank chats with Eagles safety Chris Maragos:

Roob: Welcome to Camp Central and Five Minutes with Roob! We’re going to spend five minutes with Eagles safety and special teams demon Chris Maragos today. How are ya doing, Chris?

Maragos: Roob, it’s good to be here with you, my man.

Roob: It’s great to be with you. And I was thinking, this is your fourth year. You went to two high schools, two colleges, you were with a couple of NFL teams before Philly. This is the longest you’ve ever been anywhere.

Maragos: It’s good, man. It’s a little bit of a change of pace but I like it. Let’s stick to it for eight more years.

Roob: That sounds good. Why not? You can play special teams when you’re 40.

Maragos: Why not?

Roob: So you started out as a wide receiver. You were a pretty good one from everything I’ve read. Tell me about Chris Maragos the wide receiver. Tell me how dangerous you were. Do you compare yourself to DeSean?

Maragos: Well, I got kicked out now. I’m not allowed to play wide receiver, actually. A bunch of guys on the team mess with me because they’ll watch me catch and they’ll be like, ‘You actually played receiver?’ I swear I was actually really good. I was a shifty slot guy, a guy who’s real quick, a change-of-pace guy. I would go across the middle, things like that, slants, get extra yards. Actually, probably one of my best attributes was yards after the catch. But it was fun, man, I had fun doing it. Offense and defense are so different, especially when you play at a high level, it’s completely different, but I had fun doing it.

Roob: Now, you started out college at Western Michigan and you became really good friends with Greg Jennings there. Tell me about him and the influence he had on you.

Maragos: Really, honestly, Greg laid the foundation for me as an athlete. I can remember one game when he had 200 yards or something and you know, I always prided myself on being there early and doing things. And I walk into our meeting room and there’s Greg Jennings. He’s got his pen out and he’s watching game film and his whole paper’s full of notes. I mean this guy just had 250 yards and he’s the first one in there taking notes and he really showed me what it looked like to be a professional at the collegiate level and having the mindset of always doing the little things. No matter what you do, there’s always room for improvement. He was huge for my progression at an early age in college.

Roob: Everybody needs a guy like that certainly in their career. Now, at what point in your career did you convert from wide receiver to safety?

Maragos: That was at the University of Wisconsin. So I was a walk-on at Western Michigan. I had an opportunity to walk on at Wisconsin. That’s every kid’s dream growing up in the state and (playing for Wisconsin head coach) Bret Bielema. One day I was playing offense and he was one of the only guys that knew I was on the team. The quarterback threw an interception, I was playing receiver and I tracked the guy from down the field and jumped on the back and stripped the ball out. And coach Bielema kind of looked at me and he goes, ‘You’re gonna play safety.’ And that was it. After that point when he saw that and it worked out.

Roob: When did you start to embrace special teams? Is it something you’ve always liked doing?

Maragos: Yeah, in college for sure, largely in part because I knew to start out at the University of Wisconsin that was going to be where I had to make my calling card and really show that I could be an athlete and play. So I really took it seriously there and even when I was a starter at Wisconsin, my fifth year I played a lot of special teams — kickoffs, everything. That was something that carried over and then when I got to the NFL, I was behind guys like Dashon Goldson and Kam Chancellor and I was looking around, thinking, ‘I don’t think I’m going to be playing safety anytime soon, so let’s get good at special teams.’ My whole career I’ve just been looking to find a way to help the team win and just be a role player the best I can. Whether that’s handing out water, teaching a guy, playing safety, special teams, whatever it might be, breaking down film. Whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s really what I want to do and that’s what special teams is for me.

Roob: You guys won a Super Bowl in Seattle during your stay there. What was that experience like? Maybe not the football side, but just knowing for that moment, that year that you guys were the best team in the world.

Maragos: It’s a pretty cool feeling, largely in part because I can remember a couple of days after, I was sitting back on my couch thinking about everything. And you really think about from the offseason, OTAs, minicamps and you really go through the ups and downs, highs and lows from the season and you really see how difficult it is through all the adversity to actually win the Super Bowl. To me, it’s one of the hardest things you can possibly do from a team sport. It’s humbling to be a part of something like that. You understand how rare it is and how difficult and how hard it is to do, but at the same time, it gives you a template of what to do the rest of your career and that’s what I’m bringing here to Philadelphia.

Roob: Is it something that you share with guys? Does it come up a lot or is it unspoken?

Chris Maragos: Oh, absolutely. Most of the time, I never really bring it up unless a guy will ask me questions. You know, for me, I want to be a resource to paint the picture and say, ‘Listen, this is what to expect, this is how we do it, this is how we need to piece together the things to get to where we want to go.’ And guys are really receptive to that. The cool thing is we’ve got a locker room of guys that are really hungry. They want to be great and not average. And that’s what you need if you really want to be able to get 53 guys, 10 practice squad players, to go out there and win a championship. You need every single person to give every ounce of everything and the more you can paint that picture and guys are receptive and willing to buy into that, the better it is for everyone as a whole.

Roob: You’re in your eighth training camp. Obviously, everyone wants to get to the regular season. You’re now four weeks away. At this point in your career, how do you get motivated for these 2½, hot practices every day?

Maragos: It’s a great question. Every day I sit at my locker before I go out to practice and I remember there was a time my rookie year when I was just dying to get reps. I was just trying to be noticed, and I think that at the time there were 80 or 85 guys on the training camp roster. And I might’ve been the last one in the front office’s mind or the coach’s mind — half the people didn’t even know who I was. So for me to have that mindset and say there was a time when you were dying to play in the preseason games or you were dying just to come out to practice and take a special teams rep when a guy was late getting out there and they needed a body, and you would fill in and run out there. For me, understand and realizing and remembering those things so that now the position I’m in, I can continue to have that mindset, be sharp and appreciate where I am. So to be out there every day and have the opportunity to play in the National Football League, especially for the Philadelphia Eagles, I take great pride in that.

Roob: Chris Maragos, inspiring guy. We hope you’re around for eight years or more. 

Maragos: Me too!

Will Eagles make a better effort to establish the run in 2017?

Will Eagles make a better effort to establish the run in 2017?

It was just one preseason game, but it all seemed oddly familiar. 

Against the Packers last Thursday night, the Eagles passed the ball an astounding 54 times and ran just it just 19. Matt McGloin threw 42 passes! 

While offensive coordinator Frank Reich blamed the lack of rushing attempts on the Packers' blitzing defense, for many fans watching it probably seemed like the same old story. Doug Pederson abandoned the run. 

"We didn’t run it very well against Green Bay," Reich said, "but I'm very confident that we will run the ball well this year."

For a former quarterback and quarterbacks coach who comes from the Andy Reid school of offense, Pederson has earned the reputation of being a pass-happy play-caller and coach. After all, he's the coach who allowed his rookie quarterback to attempt over 600 passes last season. 

Despite Pederson's reputation, free agent pickup LeGarrette Blount said he didn't hesitate to sign with the Eagles this offseason. 

"That didn't concern me," Blount said this week. "You just have to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Some games you might run it a lot, some games you might not run it as much. I'm confident that I'll touch the ball as much as they need me to."

In fairness, the Eagles weren't as pass-heavy as they appeared in 2016. In Pederson's first year as head coach, the Eagles passed 609 times and ran 438 times. So they ran the ball 41.83 percent of the time, 16th in the NFL. Despite that percentage, the Eagles were still the 11th-best rushing team in the league, averaging 113.3 yards per game.  

While the Eagles released the often-injured Ryan Mathews on Tuesday, Howie Roseman did his part to bring in adequate replacements. He signed Blount as a free agent and drafted Donnel Pumphrey in the fourth round. Those two will combine with Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood to create a four-headed running attack. 

While there are still a few weeks before the opener, Reich said the look of the running back rotation is beginning to crystallize a little bit. 

"We all have our roles," Sproles said. "I feel like the last couple of practices, the running game is starting to come together."

In his rookie season, a season in which he didn't become the starter until a week before the opener, Carson Wentz threw an astonishing 607 passes. That's more than any Eagles quarterback had ever thrown in a season and the second most an NFL rookie has ever had. 

Pederson even admitted in July that Wentz probably felt like the Eagles asked him to do too much at times as a rookie (see story)

So what's the easiest way to help Wentz?

Run the ball. 

"We have a handful of backs who run hard and do some good things," Wentz said Tuesday. "It'll be interesting to see how that shakes out. But we believe no matter who's in the backfield, with the O-line we have and the guys up front, we should be dynamic up front. 

"We believe that will kind of be our bread and butter and we can lean on those guys, whoever's back there, hopefully, they'll get the job done and do it well."

Earlier this week, Reich touted the Eagles' run efficiency last season, claiming the team was fifth in 2016. He explained that run efficiency doesn't just take yards into account but also looks at how productive those yards were depending on the situation. 

While Reich said the rotation is starting to crystallize, it's still unclear what it will look like. It is clear Sproles and Pumphrey will get a bulk of their work in the passing game. Then it becomes a question of whether or not Blount is a short-yardage and goal line specialist or if he's also the guy who will run the ball between the 20s. He seems to think he is still a bell cow, but Smallwood has been extremely impressive when healthy in camp. 

"He's been looking good," Sproles said of Smallwood. "He got more comfortable with the offense now. He's looking good."

Meanwhile, Blount is coming off an 18-touchdown season and a Super Bowl victory. 

"[Blount] knows what it takes to win," Sproles said.  

The Eagles have three more games this preseason to figure out how they want to rotate their running backs, and it won't be easy considering the starters won't play much until the Dolphins game on Aug. 24.

This week against Buffalo offers the Eagles another chance to prove they're committed to running the football. 

Maybe that means Matt McGloin won't throw the ball 42 times. 

“You try to go into every game trying to establish [the run],” Pederson said. “You know, it was unfortunate the way the game kind of took off. But, yeah, the plan would be to try to get that established a little bit this week and see where it goes. I really feel like we've got a good offensive line that can handle that with the backs that we have. It's something that we'll try to focus on hopefully Thursday.”