What C Ricky Stromberg brings to the Washington Commanders
Taking a closer look at the Commanders’ third round pick and how he might fit in Washington
The Washington Commanders drafted Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg with their third round pick last Friday night. Washington entered the draft needing to reinforce the offensive line but the board didn’t quite fall their way in the first or second round, with the Commanders instead opting to draft cornerback Emmanuel Forbes and defensive back Jartavius Martin. But in the third round, the Commanders finally added an offensive lineman in Stromberg.
Stromberg is a center, so he doesn’t necessarily fill an immediate need for the Commanders given they signed Nick Gates in free agency, re-signed Tyler Larsen and still have Chase Roullier on the roster. However, Gates’ contract is very similar to Wes Schweitzer’s, which could see him fill a back up role, while Roullier is expected to be cut for cap and injury reasons.
Stromberg then could be well positioned to challenge for the starting role early on and could be well positioned to establish himself as the long term center down the line. So what makes Stromberg capable of pushing Gates for the starting role? Let’s take a closer look.
The first thing that stands out with Stromberg is his athleticism in the run game. Stromberg consistently reaches across the face of defenders and has a strong knack for taking up good positions and angles with his body to seal off defenders and create rushing lanes for the running back.
This play comes from a few years ago back in the 2021 season. I made a point to watch this game against Georgia because not only was that Georgia defense one of the best in college football and consisted of a number of first round picks, but also because several of those players have now been drafted by the Eagles, so Stromberg will have to face them twice a year.
This play came early in that game. Stromberg at center has a very tough task of trying to reach the three-technique defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who the Eagles drafted in the first round last year. Davis is a huge body and an incredibly stout run defender, so just trying to block him in the run game is hard enough, but with him aligned so wide here it makes it even harder for Stromberg.
Despite the tough assignment, Stromberg does a fantastic job making up ground and reaching across the face of Davis before engaging and getting his hips and body turned around. This is something Stromberg does consistently well. Once he reaches a defensive tackle, he’ll flip his body around and position himself to seal off the defender and create a clear lane for the back to run into. Despite Davis’ size and power, Stromberg manages to seal him off effectively, showing a good arc in his back to redirect the power from Davis upwards and pinning him inside. Unfortunately, the rest of the blocks aren’t as good as Stromberg’s block, which was just about perfect.
The athletic ability to reach that block is fantastic and will immediately give the Commanders a threat on the interior for any type of zone run scheme. While that obviously stands out, it shouldn’t overshadow how well he positions his body to seal off Davis once he’s reached him. This shows up all the time when watching Stromberg.
This time we see Stromberg against Alabama from last season. On this play, Alabama looks to send their linebacker on a rush inside while the other linebacker loops around behind him. Stromberg spots the first linebacker coming early before he snaps the ball, so once he snaps the ball he does a great job getting out of his stance and getting his hands and body on the linebacker. His hands are perhaps a bit low and wide, but we see that ability again to position his body in such a way to cut the defender off from the front side of the play.
With the first linebacker secured, Stromberg passes him off to the right guard before working up to the second level to pick up the second linebacker. As he climbs to the linebacker, notice how he keeps his body position and angle the same. He uses his athleticism to keep himself in front of the linebacker which then enables him to use his body position to cut the linebacker off. This creates a clear rushing lane right up the heart of Alabama’s defense and the running back works through it untouched on his way to the end zone.
Stromberg became an essential component to the Arkansas offensive line, especially in the run game. That athleticism and knack for sealing off defenders meant that Arkansas came to rely on him in key situations.