A pair of Chargers offensive linemen were the first players on the team to be named to NFL's "Top 100 Players of 2022" on Sunday night.
Center Corey Linsley was ranked 60th by his peers, while left tackle Rashawn Slater came in at No.79.
In the last two seasons, Linsley has played near the highest level the NFL has seen at the center position.
His peers seem to agree, as Linsley was once again voted onto the list for second straight year. He is the highest-ranked center on this year's list, an accolade he's now recorded twice in a row.
Linsley earned his first Pro Bowl selection in his first year with the Bolts in 2021. Giving quarterback Justin Herbert protection along the offensive line, the Chargers also added one of the best minds in the NFL at his position.
"I think what really makes a great center, first and foremost, you have to have the mental capacity to do that demanding position," said Eagles center Jason Kelce. "You have to be somebody that can take charge of a group and lead them in the direction necessary.
"And then secondly, you're going to be asked to do a lot of things in most offenses. More and more teams are running these hybrid offenses that do a little bit of everything," Kielce added.
After earning First-Team All-Pro honors in 2020 and Second-Team honors in 2021, Linsley has maintained an elite playing level. Rated in the elite tier of centers by Pro Football Focus, his pass protection and run blocking has continuously been near the top of the league.
"The amount of things he can see real quick, he's a really smart guy," teammate Joey Bosa said. "He's the general out there. He lines up and he goes to work and he's really one of the best to do it."
"Just having Corey, he's one the best centers in this league. You all know that," added Chargers safety Derwin James, Jr.
One of his most highlighted characteristics that separates him is his strength, which has allowed him to maintain that elite position year after year. Going into his second season with the Chargers, his presence can allow Herbert to feel more comfortable in the pocket.
The Bolts also had a newcomer on the list, as Slater was one of six first-year players to make the Top 100 list. A Pro Bowl starter in his rookie year, Slater made an immediate impact by solidifying the left tackle spot on Chargers' offensive line from Week 1 on. His play in 2021 garnered praise from some of the league's best.
"I think what makes him so good is that he's pretty good at everything," said San Francisco 49ers tackle Trent Williams. "He run blocks really well and he pass blocks pretty well. He's very smart. You can tell he always knows what he's doing.
"Even as a rookie he looked incredibly comfortable in that system where they're dropping back 30 times a game with a quarterback that has big arm potential, so you have to protect a little longer in cases," Williams added. "I think [Slater] did an amazing job."
Slater's power and effectiveness wowed the NFL as a rookie, as he took on some of the best pass rushers in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Slater finished with a 83.6 overall grade, second among all rookie offensive lineman. Additionally, he finished 2021 with an allowed pressure rate of just 3.7 percent, which tied for the lowest rate by a rookie left tackle since 2010.
"I would say maturity and demeanor all plays into it," Texans defensive end Jonathan Greenard said. "He doesn't look rattled out there. He's got real good technique [and is] very stout."
While his impressive rookie year is a signal that the future is bright, Slater has reiterated in training camp that he has areas he wants to grow in. In Year 2, the expectations will be raised for Slater, but his ranking among the Top 100 players shows the level of respect he has received around the league after just one season.
"I think [Slater] did an amazing job," Williams concluded. "Just to see his growth, to see him go accomplish his dream, I couldn't be more proud of him."
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