Patriots: Wendell, Stork battling for starting center job


Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have several daily positional battles taking place in training camp. Veteran Ryan Wendell has held down the club’s offensive line at the center spot in recent years, but rookie Bryan Stork is making a valid bid for the starting job.

Wendell had a career year in 2012, emerging as an irreplaceable anchor along the front line. He led the NFL in total snaps and showed tremendous ability in both the ground and passing game.

Wendell did take a step back last year though, leaving many to question whether  he’s the answer moving forward. It’s unknown if he was hurt or if the injuries to his fellow line mates effected his play, but he wasn’t nearly as effective.

New England signed Wendell out of Fresno State University in 2008 as an undrafted free agent. Since then, he’s been forced to battle, scratch and claw his way on to the roster.

He was cut from the team several times and struggled to make the practice squad before showing former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia the necessary improvements needed to make the team.

Wendell stands just 6-foot-2 and weighs 300-pounds. He’s not large by any means in comparison to those he squares off with in the trenches. Therefore Wendell must rely upon fundamentally sound play, utilizing sharp instincts.

But coming off a down year in which his fundamentals slipped, Wendell must now win over the trust of new line coach Dave DeGuglielmo. That’s not a given by any means. Bill Belichick’s decision to draft Stork in this year’s draft only complicates the situation for Wendell.

Stork was taken by the team in fourth round out of Florida State University. The youngster was an absolute rock for the Seminoles in 2013. He not only helped lead his team to a national championship, but was also named the country’s best overall center.

Belichick knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to select Stork. He wanted to create competition in camp. Stork is a multi-tooled player who can certainly provide the Patriots with an added boost. Like Wendell, Stork can also slide over and play the guard position. He’s been seeing lots of action in camp thus far and has yet to disappoint.

Stork stands in at 6-foot-4. He’s an intimidating, menacing force who can execute with great efficiency. With Tom Brady‘s limited mobility, they’ll look to protect him with the best possible guy and Stork may be the answer. Brady was sacked 40 times last year.

Obviously Wendell’s experience will be hard to overlook in the selection process, but Stork will get his fair share of time in the pre-season to make his mark. As things stand right now, it would appear as if Stork has the best chance to make in impact of all the 2014 draft picks.