Bryan Stork has been the Patriots’ starting center for most of the last two years, but will face a challenge this year from David Andrews. (Andrew Weber/USA Today Images)
As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re going to take a look at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.
14. Centers Bryan Stork and David Andrews
Height: 6-foot-4 (Stork), 6-foot-3 (Andrews)
Weight: 310 pounds (Stork), 295 pounds (Andrews)
Age: 25 (Stork — will turn 26 on Nov. 15), 23 (Andrews — will turn 24 on July 10)
Resume: We’re going to bend the rules here and make these two a package combo, because when they’ve been healthy, each have proven to have very good moments in the middle of New England’s offensive line. A fourth-round pick out of Florida State in 2014, Stork has been in control of the gig for the better part of the last two years, and in 2014, we thought enough of his performance to give him the team Rookie of the Year Award. He struggled with injury and was sidelined at the start of 2015, and so Andrews got his chance. The undrafted rookie out of Georgia was probably the Patriots’ most impactful first-year player over the start of the 2015 season, starting 11 games and allowing Stork to take his time to return to full health. Stork eventually won the starters’ job back before the end of last year, but the competition was close at the end of 2015, and figures to be one of the positions worth keeping an eye on when camp rolls around later this month.
Why we ranked them here: When Stork is completely healthy, he’s one of the best young centers in the NFL. He also has excellent positional versatility — while he wasn’t the second coming of Logan Mankins, when the offensive line was in a pinch last year, he also played guard and tackle. (If the guard situation gets dicey at times this year, it wouldn’t be a shock to se him take some snaps there this season.) Plus, he is a notoriously ornery cuss who, when he’s in the mood, can certainly evoke memories of Mankins, which is a good thing. Meanwhile, Andrews stepped into the lead role nicely last year, starting the first 10 games and allowing the Patriots’ offense to not miss a beat in the early going when he was on the field. (For what it’s worth, PFF gave Andrews higher grades than Stork last year.) The two could be pushed at the center spot this season by rookie Joe Thuney, who was working some at center over the course of the spring workouts. But in terms of importance, the two have done an excellent job proving their bonafides over the last two seasons. That’s why they get a dual spot on our list.
Quote: “I think they’re different in terms of the type of player they are, both of them are smart and dependable and tough, do a lot of different things to try and help set the table for the rest of our lineman and get everybody going in the right direction. Bryan’s a little bit more experienced certainly at this point having played quite a bit last year. I think both guys have a lot of strengths to them. Both guys certainly work hard to try and improve some of the things maybe they don’t do as well as they’d like to. I think they work extremely hard, bring great work ethic to our offense. There’s a presence inside, a toughness that they both have.” — Josh McDaniels on Stork and Andrews, 12/15/15
Random notes: Andrews got the call in the 2015 opener, and was the third rookie free agent to start opening day under Bill Belichick. Meanwhile, in 2014, Stork became the second member of the Patriots franchise to win a national championship (at Florida State) and a Super Bowl (as a rookie) in back-to-back years. Cornerback Randall Gay (LSU 2003, Patriots 2004) was the other.