The Patriots have declared rookie starting center Bryan Stork for Sunday's playoff game against the Colts. The Patriots will likely slide right guard Ryan Wendell to the center position and insert guard Josh Kline at the open guard spot.
Wendell was been the starting center for the Patriots 2012 and 2013 seasons; he has plenty of experience and the Patriots shouldn't have an issue at the position. Wendell is actually a better run blocker than Stork, but weaker in pass protection against bigger nose tackles.
Kline is the wild card. There's no question that he hasn't been the best player on the Patriots offensive line, but he's still a better option that the early season players like Jordan Devey, Marcus Cannon, and Cameron Fleming. So it won't be that bad.
That said, his play isn't made for highlight reels:
Kline has played a major role in seven games in his Patriots tenure. As an undrafted played in 2013, coming out of the MAC (not considered one of the premier college conferences), there were low expectations. In Week 15, Nate Solder was lost to an injury and the Patriots had to kick Logan Mankins out to tackle, with Kline stepping in at left guard for the remainder of the game and the subsequent week.
So, as a rookie, Kline faced played like the Dolphins Jared Odrick, Randy Starks, and the Ravens Haloti Ngata. Most impressive? He only allowed two quarterback hits and one additional pressure to quality opponents.
This season Kline has had to step into a starting spot, or a major role, in five games. Two against the Jets, two against the Bills, and one against the Ravens. He lined up against players like Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Ngata again. Richardson had a field day, if you just look at the above images (he's lined up against Kline in both instances).
But you know what? There are 14 Pro Bowl seasons and 9 All Pro seasons between those players. And they lined up against the now sophomore Josh Kline. Of course he was always going to be outmatched. He was fighting against players that make everyone look terrible. It doesn't help that the opposing coaches know that he's the newest and, yes, weakest member of the line so they match up their best player to generate pressure.
Kline has been put on blast for how he looks on the field. But he's been squaring off every single week against All World talent and he's allowed two sacks, seven quarterback hits, and seven pressures, spread about his seven games. That's less than a sack every three games, and one hit and one pressure per game. For a back-up going against the top defensemen in the league? Not too bad.
Perhaps Kline will exceed all expectations on Sunday against the Colts. There are zero Pro Bowl or All Pro seasons amongst the Indianapolis defensive line. Maybe Kline will paint a different picture than what his performances against the Jets and Bills portray.