The Patriots have been forced to use a makeshift offensive line throughout the season. Injuries to starters Bryan Stork, Ryan Wendell, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon, as well as the retirement of Dan Connolly put several rookies and inexperienced players into the spotlight.
Over the course of the first two months of 2015, rookies David Andrews, Tre' Jackson and Shaq Mason all saw significant playing time, as did Josh Kline and Cameron Fleming. Some of the injuries are ongoing (Solder is out for the season with a torn biceps) but others are ready to return.
Stork is one such player. He was sent to short-term IR with a concussion but is eligible to return to the active roster for the Week 9 game against Washington. He started practicing last week and has thus far been able to make it through the workouts without any further problems.
With Andrews playing every snap of every game thus far at center, there would appear to be a decision to be made when Stork is activated. Should Bill Belichick go with Stork or stick with Andrews?
Our Samsonite Make Your Case question this week – Should Bryan Stork be given his starting job back immediately?
PFW's Paul Perillo says …
I applaud the job that David Andrews did filling in but assuming Bryan Stork is physically ready to go he should be put back at center immediately. He was a steadying presence in the middle last season as a rookie, helping to solidify a struggling offensive line and eventually turning it into one of the team's strengths right on through the Super Bowl.
Stork is more athletic than Andrews and at 310 pounds has the ability to stand up to inside pressure more effectively than his smaller replacement. He has more experience and the transition back to Tom Brady should be seamless considering their time together a year ago.
If one of them has the ability to play guard then that would also be a possibility because it is certainly reasonable to suggest that both Stork and Andrews are among the best options for the interior spots. But if there's room for just one in the starting lineup, then it has to be Stork.
PFW's Andy Hart says …
What has David Andrews done to warrant being replaced? All he's done is play every snap at center, hasn't had one botched snap with Tom Brady and very few if any noticeable breakdowns in his blocking. He's called out the assignments and been in the middle of a makeshift group that has been more than good enough to protect the franchise.
Stork had a strong rookie season but we all know that it is quite possible to lose a job in New England due to injury. That happens when the replacement comes in and performs well, and that's what Andrews has done. Let Stork slowly work his way back into form, and let's see if he or Andrews is capable of moving to guard. If that's the case then let both play.
But to put Andrews on the bench the moment that Stork is ready to return would be wrong, and the rookie deserves better.