The Washington Commanders' offensive line significantly dipped in production and cohesion in 2022 from 2021. The interior, specifically center, saw several different starters throughout the season. It's why the Commanders felt the need to draft Arkansas Razorbacks' Ricky Stromberg in the third round of the draft this year. Overall, there has been a lot of turnover amongst the offensive line this year. Hogs Haven created a depth chart projection (before Chase Roullier was cut), and there are new projected starters at right tackle (Andrew Wylie), right guard (Sam Cosmi), and center (Nick Gates). Gates saw ten starts in 2022 with the New York Giants, however, most of which came at left guard. So, enter Stromberg, who joins the Commanders after accumulating 32 starts at center for the Razorbacks. Gates rightfully should be the projected starter. However, the separation between him and Stromberg may not be as far as some suggest.
You can check out our pre-draft profile of Stromberg here.
Stromberg's strengths in the pass game include his initial quickness to get into his pass sets and grip strength when engaged with rushers. Stromberg is solid against speed rushers but better against power. He has a solid anchor due to his functional strength and ability to marry his upper and lower body to stalemate bull rushes. With pass sets, he understands his landmarks in Angle sets, allowing him to anchor down quickly. Along with his grip strength, Stromberg has good hand usage with his placement at the point of contact and shows solid independent hand usage to refit his hands to regain leverage when engaged in hand fighting with rushers.
Stromberg showed good mental processing and awareness in identifying blitz threats. In addition, he has the athleticism with good change of direction and lateral agility/quickness to prevent second and third-level defenders from crossing his face. Like blitz threats, Stromberg has good COD and lateral agility, along with very good mental processing that allows him to redirect loopers in the twist game.
Stromberg is impressive in open-field in the screen game. He has good initial quickness and foot speed to quickly reach his landmarks, along with a good tempo at the point of attack. His tempo allows him to remain under control as a blocker with proper balance. Overall, he has a very good feel for space, and his athletic ability and processing allow him to be effective on the second and third levels of the defense.
The Razorbacks primarily utilized zone scheme concepts, where Stromberg’s biggest strength was. He has good initial quickness getting to his landmarks on reach blocks. He shows very good competitiveness overall, with consistently good hand placement, timing, grip strength, and functional strength to sustain blocks on zone runs. He also shows a good ability to quickly recover from imbalance, which goes into his competitive toughness. Stromberg was a significant factor in springing so many of the Razorbacks due to his ability to seal off gaps for ball carriers and his ability on combination blocks. As a post blocker on combos, his timing and very good angles allow him to position himself on the second level properly.
I think the concerns around Stromberg’s game are technical and frame related. In the pass game, I saw some issues with Stromberg’s punch timing against speed-to-power rushers. Quicker pass rushers could get into his frame quickly with strikes of their own, knocking him off balance at the point of attack and creating anchor issues when they converted to power. He must develop a plan against rushers using a long-arm move to push the pocket. Stromberg also got into trouble at times at the point of contact with waist bending, causing him to stop moving his feet in pass protection and making things easier for rushers to get pressure on the quarterback.
Stromberg had issues sustaining base blocks against bigger 0/1-tech defenders in the run game. As mentioned before, his frame was a concern, and while I believe he has good enough functional strength to survive and start in the NFL, a bigger-bodied defensive lineman might give him problems without the necessary help on doubles/combos. Additionally, he needs to continue developing his hand placement on base blocks, allowing him to utilize his play strength properly and stalemate linemen.
Stromberg is a smart, athletic offensive lineman with playmaking ability in the run game and very good pre and post-snap processing in the passing game to get the offense in the best protection looks. Stromberg’s blocking in various zone-scheme concepts at Arkansas, I believe, is one of the main reasons the Commanders were interested in him. Additionally, his experience in the SEC could fast-track his development this summer, making him a legitimate candidate for the starting center spot. Even if Nick Gates earns the starting center role, Stromberg will be a really good backup, so it is hard to see a significant drop-off if he only has spot duty as a rookie.
Eric Bieniemy and Andy Reid utilized zone schemes often in Kansas City, so Gates and Stromberg will not have issues with Beiniemy’s scheme here in Washington. So as the summer moves along, whoever wins the starting role will all depend on what traits Gates or Stromberg has that will edge out the other player. The traits will not all be focused in the run game either; leadership traits, along with which player offers more in pass protection, will obviously be factored in, too. In all, this will be a good position battle to watch unfold when training camp arrives and, more importantly, during the pre-season games.