Normally, one does not pay much attention to the offensive line, and much less to an offensive lineman, until there is reason for doing so.
Reason for doing so No. 1: Jake Long was Miami's first pick and the first overall pick of the 2008 draft.
Reason for doing so No. 2: Long is the NFL's highest-paid offensive lineman.
Reason for doing so No. 3: Long was in the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Reason for doing so No. 4: Long struggled this preseason, hinting at having regressed from his rookie year.
Reason for doing so No. 5: Long was terrible in the regular-season opener, causing some concern and a change in Miami's blocking scheme.
So colleague David J. Neal has become something of a Longaphile in that he's tracking the big man's every snap so far this regular season. And here are the results of that focused microscope:
Long has faced John Abraham and Dwight Freeney the first two games. He was matched up one-on-one with these star defensive ends 43 times.
On those, 28 snaps were mano-a-mano meetings against Abraham and he allowed two sacks and one pressure.
Against Freeney, Long was one-on-one only 15 times, although seven of those came on the Dolphins final drive. Long has had 13 snaps in which he got help from another offensive lineman, with that player almost always being Justin Smiley. Smiley and Long battled Freeney on 11 of those double-team snaps.
That signals a departure from Miami's confidence to leave Long on an island against a defensive end as it did much of the preseason and in the first game against Abraham.
Long also got help from a tight end or a chip block from a back four more times against Freeney.
And how did he do in the game versus Freeney? Freeney had one sack and one hurry.
The DVR also showed that Abraham and Freeney were blocked by a tight end, a running back, or a combo of the two five total times. That blocking scheme, considered less than desirable, was quite efficient. Neither Freeney nor Abraham had a sack or pressure on those five snaps.
Keep in mind that Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said Long looked bad the first couple of snaps of Monday night's game but recovered and then played well after that.
On Sunday Long is expected to be matched against either Shawne Merriman or rookie Larry English. Merriman is questionable with a groin injury but he practiced full on Friday after not working at all on Wednesday and Thursday.
Long's blocking buddy, Smiley, was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday with a shoulder injury. Smiley is listed as questionable.
We'll continue to chart Long on his progress -- or at least David J. will now that I put public pressure on him by saying he would.