Making his first career start at center in place of injured Kory Lichtensteiger, Spencer Long helped anchor a solid Redskins rushing attack in their victory over the Browns.
Next man up. That is the mentality you must have in the NFL as a player in a backup role.
After take reps at both left guard and center in the offseason but ultimatley being the No. 2 player at both positions, Spencer Long waited for his opportunity to get back on the field during the regular season.
Long got his first chance during week three's victory over the New York Giants, when starting center Kory Lichtensteiger injured his calf. Lichtensteiger was placed on Injured Reserve following the game, so the starting center position immediately belonged to Long.
Making his first ever start at center, Long anchored an offensive line that helped running back Matt Jones rush for his second career 100-yard game in Sunday's 31-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
"It felt good," said Long on his first start at center. "It wasn't perfect, but I feel more and more comfortable there as time goes on. I'm excited to be a center; it's a real fun position. In order to break down defenses and stuff, that's something I feel I do well. Keep getting better."
Jones has found the most success this season when Long is in the game. When Long entered the Giants game in the second half, Jones immediately started to have a big impact. Jones' late game success from last week transitioned to this week's victory.
"[Spencer] did so good, you know, blocking 55 [Danny Shelton], man," Jones said. "He's a big guy and they just did great. I give the whole offensive line credit."
The same formula worked again. For the second straight week, the Redskins were able to ride the running game in the second half to victory.
"Oh, it means everything," Long said of having a strong running game in the second half. "Run the clock out, get some more points on the board, make sure we seal the deal. Keep attacking the ground, we did, and we were able to keep doing that. Hats off time them, they have a good defense, but we pulled out on top today."
Check out the top photos of Spencer Long from the 2015 season!
Through the first two games of the regular season, the Redskins were unable to find the perfect offensive balance. The running game just wasn't there fully.
But over the past two weeks, the running game has come alive – leading to back-to-back Redskins victories.
"Starting out 0-2 is not what we wanted obviously," said Long. "Now were back to .500, it's better than what we were. All we can ask for is a 'W' each week, so hopefully we can advance to 3-2 next week."
The Redskins opened up Sunday's game with two pass-heavy drives, leading to two touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins to tight end Jordan Reed. But once the Browns started to figure out the pass, the Redskins successfully adjusted their game plan to a more run-heavy attack.
"I think we had a strong rushing attack all day," Long said. "You could definitely feel the momentum swings, but it's our job to keep pounding away no matter what's going on. I like it when it's balanced, but I do love a good run attack. I love pulling up, looking out for my block, and seeing Matt Jones down the field, Chris Thompson, it's what we enjoy as lineman. It's awesome. It's great."
Long was quick to credit his coaches for his solid performance.
"We have one of the best offensive line coaches in the league, no doubt. [Bill Callahan] is always making sure we are ready to go, no matter what," Long said. "I was training at guard and center all year, so when that happens I had to be ready to start and step up at center. Coach Callahan always makes sure we're ready to go; that's a testament to him and a testament to us taking his coaching, us working hard and accepting it, being ready to go. That's the way it is in this league, 'next man up.'"