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Jake Long struggles as challenging season awaits

Even as Mel Kiper continues to believe the Dolphins made a mistake in picking Jake Long over Matt Ryan, the Dolphins seem pleased they picked the anchor left tackle. That was especially true after Long was a Pro Bowl alternate and earned a trip to the game by starting all 16 games last season.

Well, this preseason Long has had some struggles this preseason. He gave up a sack to Everette Brown during the Carolina game. He lost his footing and his leverage on the dirt infield in the Jacksonville game, allowing the defender he was blocking to tackle Ricky Williams for a loss. Long also yielded a quarterback hurry to Quentin Grove in that game.

Long was also flagged on a false start against Jacksonville and a holding call against Tampa Bay.

And all that comes as talk about Long struggling against speed rushers persists outside the Dolphins organization.

“Jake didn’t give up many plays last year; he didn’t give up many sacks," coach Tony Sparano said Sunday. " So, I don’t know if that was a problem or a perception. But from my end, I felt the guy played pretty well against some pretty good people during the course of the season last year.

"Now, in the preseason right now, he’s gotten beat a couple times out there, and, you know, I think he’ll get that, Jake will get that fixed. Every week he goes in, he’s [a] pretty good pro, for just being a young guy. He goes in, he watches the film, he’s critical of himself and wants, and is very curious to get problems fixed. So, I think that any of those things that have happened right now with Jake, you know, he’ll get some of those things fixed.”

That is necessary because Long faces some talented rushers this season that perhaps he didn't see last season. Every week will be a challenge for Long.

John Abraham, he of the 16 1/2 sacks a season ago, is the first challenge in the regular-season opener.

And then there's Dwight Freeney  and Robert Mathis, Julius Peppers and Everette Brown, Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess, Shawne Merriman and Larry English, Calvin Pace, Mario Williams, and of course, James Harrison, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

Abraham, Freeney, Mathis, Peppers, Williams and Harrison all had double-digit sacks last season.