The Ravens’ offensive line woes in 2021 went hand in hand with the team’s first playoff-less season with Lamar Jackson at the helm.
Baltimore is hoping its offseason upgrades in 2022 turn the tide for a unit that finished 31st in the NFL with 57 sacks allowed. One of those additions, first-round pick Tyler Linderbaum, is in position to fill the most glaring hole at center.
Speaking at the team’s rookie minicamp on Saturday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he believes Linderbaum’s past experience gives him an edge as a rookie.
“I think he’s in a good spot because he played center his whole career,” said Harbaugh, via the team website. “Kirk Ferentz is an O-line coach and he always has great O-line coaches at Iowa, so he’s well-schooled that way just like all the Iowa offensive lineman. The other part of that is that it’s a challenge because now it’s pro football and he’s got a lot to learn. So, how fast he progresses with that will probably be the main thing in terms of whether he starts or not or how we do it. We have other guys, too. Pat Mekari. I talked to Pat about his role, right, and so Pat is going to have a big role with us. However it shakes out, how it shakes out, time will tell.”
Replacing last year’s starting center, Bradley Bozeman, will be a tall task for the rookie out of Iowa. Bozeman was one of the Ravens’ most consistent O-lineman for a unit that saw its fair share of injuries. Linderbaum feels up to the task of becoming the Ravens next starting center for years to come but is anxious to get up to speed with the veterans.
“Once the older guys get in here I’m going to soak in as much as I can from them,” Linderbaum said. “Especially just understanding the offense, understanding their communication. We’re with a bunch of rookies right now, so, who knows, I could be running everything wrong right now compared to what the older guys do.
“I think with just the center position comes leadership. You’re the guy who has to put people in the right positions and make the right calls. I’ve been playing center for awhile now and I think it just comes natural to me.”
In addition to drafting Linderbaum, the Ravens also signed veteran tackle Morgan Moses to either lockdown the right tackle spot for the now retired Alejandro Villanueva or boost a strong depth chart. With stalwart left tackle Ronnie Stanley looking to return back healthy from a season-ending injury and tackle Ja’Wuan James fixing to return after missing the entire 2021 season, the Ravens and Jackson should be excited for the potential of their O-line going forward.
At 6-foot-2, what Linderbaum lacks in size he makes up for in aggressiveness. The athletic 22-year-old excelled as a run blocker within a run-heavy Iowa program and finished his senior season as the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year.
Running the football has become a specialty in Baltimore since Jackson took over in 2018, and Linderbaum is seemingly the perfect fit to help get the Ravens back in order.
“At the end of the day, football is football,” Linderbaum said of adjusting to the pro game and snapping in the shotgun. “We’re running similar stuff, there’s just a lot different verbiage. That’s something we’re trying to get done right now — just understanding the verbiage, communication. I thought it’s been good. But also, we’re only running 10 percent of the plays that we run during the season, so there’s a lot more that I need to learn. But I think it’s a good start so far.”