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Long, Kouandjio Feel Ready To Take On Left Guard Duties

Posted Sep 28, 2015

Head coach Jay Gruden said Monday that he's confident in both Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio to start at left guard for an injured Shawn Lauvao against the Eagles.

Head coach Jay Gruden said Monday that he's confident in both Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio to start at left guard for an injured Shawn Lauvao against the Eagles.

With the injury status for starting left guard Shawn Lauvao mostly unknown for now, the Redskins feel prepared to fill his absence against the Eagles on Sunday.

The team’s depth, a buzzword of sorts and a necessary factor to start the year, will be tested again with second-year pro Spencer Long and rookie Arie Kouandjio. Neither have played a snap this season but will likely be counted on at left guard as the line shuffles its rotation with other injuries to Morgan Moses and Josh LeRibeus.

Head coach Jay Gruden announced Monday that he feels good about the depth he has on the offensive line, which looked dominant in the team’s first two games against the Dolphins and Rams and has flourished under offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

“They’ve all been schooled. That’s a good thing,” Gruden said. “This week will be no different depending on Shawn [Lauvao], how he does. We have Arie Kouandjio ready to play left guard. We have Spencer Long ready to play left guard. So we have two viable candidates right there that have not dressed in a football game yet but are ready to go.”

With Lauvao sidelined with a lateral sprain on his left knee, Long took first-team snaps at left guard Monday at practice and will likely cede time to Kouandjio there throughout the week.

“Lauvao has done an excellent job of holding his position and he’s played well,” Gruden said. “So those guys have had to wait their turn, and now they’re going to get a chance at it. I don’t know which one it is yet but we’ll wait and see. That’s what practice is for, this week, but their development has been good.”

Long entered training camp tabbed as the starting right guard. But shortly after camp commenced, rookie Brandon Scherff replaced him in the rotation and Moses filled Scherff's void at right tackle.

The switch was challenging for Long, who eventually took second-team snaps at right and left guard and at center. He learned not to stress himself out in his new role and worked on improving his hand speed, an area coaches believed needed work.

“You’ve got to have a consciousness about it,” Long said. “Like every time you punch [pads] in pass [protection], or on the run game second level, or something like that. You’ve really just got to focus on from A to B contact, you just got to punch it fast, physical, fast and hard.”

Callahan has become a useful resource in that respect, noticing when Long’s hand movements aren’t fast enough and helping him improve with more reps.

“It’s weird because you feel like you’re punching the heck out of somebody, but when you really study it, I looked at myself, I was kind of getting tensed up and it was more of like a flex than an actual strike,” Long said. “If you work enough at it, [it] should be able to get better, and I think it has for me in the last few weeks.”

Kouandjio has cited similar improvements – in handwork, speed and footwork – during his time working with Callahan in a backup role. He says he’s ready to play wherever he’s needed and that he’s comfortable with the lineup around him. “I’m here to serve. I’m a shark. I don’t care, just let me loose,” Kouandjio said.

He added: “Callahan has so much to offer and he teaches so much and sometimes it’s a lot to digest. But I mean, after a while, when you start digesting it and it’s paying off, it’s a great feeling.”

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