Sometimes, he's called Tra. Sometimes, William.

Yesterday, in the Eagles' 38-3 win, he was "The Colonel."

Because, in the vernacular of linemen, left tackle William/Tra Thomas served Chris Long "a little chicken."

"I guess that's when you knock him down, or pancake 'em, or whatever," Thomas said after he outplayed the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft.

Thomas, a former first-rounder, understands expectations. Long operates under particularly weighty expectations.

Long's daddy, Howie, is in the Hall of Fame as a Raider and on TV every weekend as a studio analyst. Chris got drafted a round higher than Howie did. Chris is guaranteed to make almost $30 million for sacking quarterbacks.

And, in his debut, he didn't sack any.

"I knew he was a great player. I might have gotten him a couple of times, but he got me a lot," Long said. "It's good to know that's as good a guy as you're going to see."

Thomas used his superior size - an extra 72 pounds, 4 inches - to great advantage in the game's first 25 minutes or so. Then, using his three Pro Bowls' worth of talent and experience, Thomas dominated.

Thomas kept a fiery Long at bay on Hank Baskett's 90-yard touchdown bomb that made it 21-0 with a minute to go before halftime, a third-and-8 play from the Eagles' 10. The Rams blitzed. Long came with all he had. His swipe missed McNabb by a whisper.

"This is the NFL. The plays you make in college, those are the plays that are close up here," Long said.

Shortly thereafter, Thomas pushed Long outside just long enough to allow McNabb time to hit DeSean Jackson for 19 yards with 13 seconds to play in the half. By the time the Eagles finished their next sustained drive, about 5 minutes into the third quarter, Long was no longer a factor; during it, Westbrook scooted for 4 yards and Thomas crushed Long.

Three minutes into the fourth quarter, when Westbrook jogged into the end zone from 6 yards out, Thomas crumpled Long.

"That was good. That was good. That was good," Thomas said, grinning. "I saw him fall. I should've given him a little extra, but I was like, 'We got this touchdown. Let's get off the field.' "

In fact, that ended Thomas' day - and Long's good time.

"I was disappointed he went out at the end," Long said. "I was having fun battling him."

That's because yesterday's output for Long - no sacks, two tackles, lots of frustration - was an improvement over what he's done in the preseason. He didn't sack anybody then, either.

To be fair, Long's adjustment period might be lengthier than most. He was seen as a possible outside linebacker in the NFL in a 3-4 scheme, a position possibly more suited to him than right end in a 4-3, which he played yesterday. He played right end in Virginia's 3-4 last year, when his stock shot into the stratosphere after a 14-sack season.

As Long mentioned, the NFL isn't the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"I think the light went on for him today," left end Leonard Little said.

"I think the light's flickering. It's not bright. I'm able to relax and play as fast as I can," Long said. "It was a big step forward for me."

Not big enough for Rams coach Scott Linehan: "It's not where you start, it's where you finish. We all have seen a lot of Chris Long. We've got to step up and really improve here, in a hurry."

Thomas is convinced that Long will improve, and told him so afterward. But this time, Thomas isn't giving away the secret recipe, as he once did with a Giants rookie end.

"I learned: When I played against Osi [Umenyiora], his rookie year, I was giving him pointers and all that," Thomas said. "He came back and gave me all this work. Now, I bite my tongue." *