When an NFL team takes anyone but a quarterback with their first-round pick, they’re almost always expecting him to start from his first game as a professional. With the rookie salary scale in place and holdouts a thing of the past, it’s a rare first-round choice who doesn’t see the field from Day 1 of the regular season.
Former Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum is expected to follow that trajectory moving forward after the Baltimore Ravens took him No. 25 overall, but it hasn’t been as straightforward as Hawkeye fans might have expected. That’s because Linderbaum suffered a foot injury in training camp and only just returned to practice on Aug. 23. He’s still got a couple weeks to prepare himself for the Ravens’ opener against the New York Jets, but it’s now a little iffy as to whether Linderbaum will be the center on Sept. 11.
That Linderbaum will be the Ravens’ center is a question of when rather than if. As long as he’s healthy for long enough, he’s likely to take over the job full-time in September. Here’s why that’s the case!
Linderbaum Holds His Blocks Well
Baltimore’s offense is built on giving quarterback Lamar Jackson time to make a decision to either find a receiver downfield or tuck it and use his legs to get a first down. That requires allowing the play to fully develop, which means offensive linemen must hold their blocks for extended periods of time.
Linderbaum did that very well in Iowa City, as he regularly swallowed up defenders and rarely allowed himself to get beat once he got his hands on a defender. In more than 1,200 passing plays at Iowa, Linderbaum only allowed two sacks, showing just how much he took control of his man and took him out of the play.
Not only does Linderbaum take his man out of action, but he regularly moves himself elsewhere on the field and takes care of another defender after he’s finished handling his man. With Linderbaum on the field, Jackson should have plenty of time to take his time and make the correct decision for Baltimore’s offense.
Coach Harbaugh with an update on Tyler Linderbaum: pic.twitter.com/9b7nUHZ1d0
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) August 17, 2022
The Ravens Have a Strong Relationship with Iowa
Here’s an area where stability really helps the Hawkeyes in their relationships with NFL teams: Kirk Ferentz has coached Iowa since 1999, and the Hawkeyes hired him away from Baltimore, where he was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator. Baltimore maintains a close relationship with Ferentz, and the Ravens were able to get plenty of information on the kind of person and player Linderbaum was before making him their first-round selection.
Beyond that, Linderbaum took the initiative to work out with former Ravens lineman Marshal Yanda, who spent 13 seasons with Baltimore after spending his college career in Iowa City. Yanda retired in 2020 and now regularly works out in Iowa City, which allowed Linderbaum to get genuine mentoring from an experienced NFL lineman.
Thanks to their sessions, Yanda vouched for Linderbaum with the Ravens, who then chose to make him the first center the team had ever drafted in the first round. Baltimore knows full well that it got a player and personality that it can trust to put in the work, which is one reason the Ravens have never wavered from the plan to make him a starter.
— Tyler Linderbaum (@TLinderbaum) May 1, 2017
The Ravens Lack Depth Behind Linderbaum
There isn’t much NFL experience on the Ravens’ roster at center. Baltimore might like Trystan Colon as a backup, but he’s a reserve center, not a player that you want on your starting offensive line. Patrick Mekari was a guard before he decided to give center a try, and the Ravens don’t really have anyone else who plays the position on the roster.
Even if Linderbaum isn’t fully ready to go in Week 1, Baltimore isn’t likely to jump at signing someone out of another team’s training camp. The Ravens can survive a game or two without Linderbaum at full strength, but there’s little point in bringing in a brand-new center when he’s likely to miss no more than a week or two.
Linderbaum’s Outlook in Baltimore
The Ravens invested a lot in Linderbaum, as they not only made him a first-round pick, but traded Hollywood Brown to the Cardinals for the pick that they used on him. That means they’re planning to make him a centerpiece of their offense for years to come, and they’re hoping that he can bring stability to the center position.
Because of that, Baltimore isn’t going to push Linderbaum too quickly, but the Ravens will want him on the field at the first opportunity. Ravens coach John Harbaugh likes for players to get two full weeks of practice in before he brings them back in a game, so Linderbaum will be right on target to serve as a center when the Ravens meet the Jets in Week 1. If he isn’t the starting center against New York, it’s highly likely that he’ll move into the role when the Ravens face Miami in their home opener.
Welcome to Baltimore, Tyler Linderbaum❗️ pic.twitter.com/le7hlkw7Vk
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 29, 2022
Credits For Featured Image: Maize & Blue Nation, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons