Heading into the 2022 season, the biggest storylines pertaining to the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive line is the health of All-Pro blindside protector, Ronnie Stanley, and the battle for the starting left guard spot next to him.
However, one development that is somewhat flying under the radar is how well rookie center Tyler Linderbaum is acclimating. The Ravens used the first-round pick they received from the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for wide receiver Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown on Linderbaum — and the former Iowa Hawkeye has been impressive thus far.
“I think every great lineman in NFL history – there’s always certain traits that stick out,” veteran right guard Kevin Zeitler said. “I think he has some of those talents. The way he runs is not like everyone else, so I think he has some great building blocks if he can put it all together, I think he’ll be one of the best in the league. He obviously has a long way to go, but I’m excited to work with him, and my goal for him, more than anything, is to make sure he reaches those heights.”
Linderbaum was touted as one the best center prospects to come into the league over the last decade-plus and has been as fleet-footed and intelligent as advertised. Linderbaum was reportedly clocked moving as fast as 18 MPH on a play in practice, according to veteran right tackle Morgan Moses on a recent appearance on ‘The Lounge’ podcast. He has flashed his athleticism in other instances as well.
“Tyler is doing a really nice job,” Offensive Line Coach Joe D’Alessandris. “He’s come in here, from Day One, learning the system, learning communication, applying it. [When] you correct him, he applies it again, fixes the problem, and he’s doing a really nice job. His leadership role is growing. He’s doing a really good job for us.”
Head coach John Harbaugh says Linderbaum is “all ball” when it comes to the intense focus he has on the game, shorting his learning curve and getting better.
“I think he’s handling it well,” Harbaugh said. “He doesn’t make very many mistakes, so far. That’s a big challenge. That’s going to be the rookie challenge all year, as far as the mental part of it.”
Linderbaum is taking it one day at a time and not looking too far ahead of himself. For the time being, he is focused on improving his communication and being more vocal as a leader on the starting offensive line.
“I think it’s a day-by-day thing,” Linderbaum said. “Every practice, there’s something I can improve on to make this offensive line better. [I’ll] just continue to be more commanding, continue to slide into a leadership role, because I have to be the communicator out there. I have to be commanding, and just every day trying to get better at that.”
As the starting center, he will be touching the ball on every play and is responsible for recognizing and calling out potential blitzes and other pressures. He also has to relay audibles and adjustments to blocking assignments to his fellow offensive linemen.
“I have to say stuff, so I have to communicate,” Linderbaum said. “But at the end of the day, I’m a rookie; I still have to earn my stripes, and I’m, ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ and just keep my head down and keep working until I prove myself.”
Linderbaum has drawn comparisons to Philadelphia Eagles’ veteran center Jason Kelce, who is still regarded as one of the best in the league heading into his 12th season. He is a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time First-Team All-Pro, and was the anchor in the middle of the elite blocking unit that paved the way to a Super Bowl title in 2017.
While it’s lofty praise for him to be mentioned in the same breath as Kelce, the two share similar athletic profiles, are very cerebral players, and play with an aggressive edge as blockers. That’s the most optimistic projection for a young player that hasn’t even taken a snap in the preseason yet, but he has been able to hold his own in padded practices against a stout Ravens interior defensive line.
“He’s feisty, man,” nose tackle Michael Pierce said. “Just because you’re a smaller guy doesn’t mean you can’t play or you can’t hold up against people. This game is leverage, this game is really want-to. I’m 6-foot. A lot of guys I go against are 6’2”, 6’3”, 6’4”; they might have longer arms than me but I find my way in to make my impact on the game. I think he’s doing really well, to be honest with you.”