New England Patriots: Chris Long Named a Most-Improved Player by PFF
By Nick Ziegler
The signing of Chris Long turned out to be a great one for the New England Patriots last season, as he was one of the most-improved players in the NFL.
The New England Patriots are one of the best teams in the NFL at signing a player that has underperformed and then having him turn it around. In 2016, Chris Long was that player for the Patriots.
After a poor season with the then St. Louis Rams in 2015, Long joined the Patriots for a chance to redeem himself, and win a Super Bowl ring. After the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, it was mission accomplished for Long.
Even though Long only totaled one more sack in 2016 than he did in 2015, he was one of the best defensive ends in the league at putting pressure on the quarterback. Due to the strong season in 2016, Long was named as one of the most improved edge rushers in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. Here’s what John Gatta of PFF had to say about Long.
"A change of scenery can do a player wonders. In the case of leaving the Rams for the Patriots, Long experienced a significant improvement in his play. From 2008 to 2013, he was relatively productive, ranking as high as 20th among edge rushers. His grades plummeted in 2014-2015 before his resurgence in 2016. Playing in front of one of the league’s most dominant coverage units, Long generated 53 QB hurries, the fourth-most among 51 qualified 4-3 DEs. In 2015, he rushed the passer from the left side 96 percent of the time. In 2016, he rushed from the left side only 28 percent of the time. As Connor Barwin’s replacement, Eagles fans should be excited for Long as a likely upgrade."
In 2015, Long received a grade of a 43.0 in his final season with the Rams. Last season with the Patriots, Long drastically improved his grade with a 70.3.
As Gatta mentions, Long will not be with the Patriots this coming season. Shortly after winning the Super Bowl, Long actually announced that he wouldn’t be returning to New England.
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Even though he is leaving, the 4-3 defense in Philadelphia should fit Long’s strengths well. After the great bounce back season in 2016, Long appears to have put the down season in 2015 behind him.