With Jason Kelce officially coming back for the 2022 season, center isn’t an apparent need for the Eagles this offseason. The team also has some versatile lineman that could shift to the center role in case of an emergency, like Landon Dickerson or Isaac Seumalo. Nevertheless, we can’t rule out the possibility of Howie Roseman trying to acquire Kelce’s long-term replacement in the upcoming draft.
Iowa’s Tyler Linderbaum is a prospect many Eagles fans are well aware of. He draws a lot of comps to Kelce, with his zone blocking ability and freakish athleticism for the position.
Let’s breakdown Linderbaum’s strength and weaknesses and his potential fit in Philly if Howie decides to use one of his three first-round picks on him.
Linderbaum has rare athleticism for an offensive lineman. At Iowa, their zone running scheme allowed Linderbaum to really shine. He gets to his spot quicker than anyone in this class and he has enough strength to push interior lineman off their alignment, creating easy running lanes for backs.
He has great awareness as well, shedding the first level and finding players to pancake on the next level at the most opportune times. His quickness to the point of attack is evident all throughout this highlight reel:
Linderbaum’s wrestling background is pretty obvious whenever you throw on the tape. Though he may be a bit undersized for traditional centers (6-foot-3, 290 pounds), you wouldn’t know it based off the eye test. Plus, his smaller stature allows him to move smoothly through his blocking progressions.
The Iowa center is always moving. Whether he’s pulling around on a run play, churning his feet on an interior lineman and peeling off to get a linebacker, or just getting downfield on a screen to KO a player in the secondary, there are no reps taken off for Linderbaum.
On the pass blocking end of the spectrum, Linderbaum looks just as stout, allowing just three total pressures during the 2020 season. He has a great feel for where the rush is coming from and he’s able to slide towards whichever side needs him. This really shines in blitz pickup. On this play, Linderbaum is occupied by a defensive tackle, when a linebacker comes screaming off his left side. Linderbaum disengages and is able to get a hand on the backer, creating just enough time for his quarterback to get the pass off.
Pro Football Focus has labeled Linderbaum as a ‘bigger Jason Kelce,’ and it’s not hard to see why. He does all of the things that Kelce made popular. Not every team will grade Linderbaum as a top-20 pick based solely on their offensive scheme. He doesn’t fit into every line, but he’s a perfect fit for the Eagles. Once Kelce hangs up the cleats, the team won’t have to shuffle their offensive line identity at all if Linderbaum ends up in Philly.
As far as center prospects are concerned, Linderbaum is as close to can’t-miss as any. He makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, despite having other glaring needs scattered throughout the roster.
Linderbaum is almost a perfect prospect, but if there’s one thing he has to improve to become a truly elite player at the next level, it’s his hand placement in his pas sets.
He relies heavily on his two-hand punches when protecting the passer, which will work against interior lineman in college, but at the NFL level, they’ll use that to create leverage and push Linderbaum around. With how sturdy his hand placement is in the running game, this should be an easy fix, especially with a coach like Jeff Stoutland.
Linderbaum isn’t the most versatile lineman either. He can play guard in a pinch, but his size hinders him from ever playing anywhere other than center long-term.
As far as finding the perfect replacement for Jason Kelce, Linderbaum checks every box. Athleticism, zone blocking pedigree, awareness to pick up oncoming blitzers with ease. Linderbaum is the best center prospect to enter the draft in quite some time.
Some scouts will have concerns about his versatility and how well he’ll fit into certain NFL blocking schemes, but that won’t be an issue if he comes to Philly. The Eagles blocking scheme is almost identical to what Iowa runs.
Despite center not being an immediate position of need, it will be in a year or so. Roseman has proven throughout his years that he likes to get ahead of stuff like this and he has always built his team through the lines. Linderbaum not only makes sense for the Eagles from that perspective, he’s a perfect fit for the Eagles offensive line from a schematic standpoint as well.
When the NFL Draft rolls around, don’t be surprised if Linderbaum’s name is called when the Eagles are on the clock.
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