Today's Bad News Item of the Day has the Patriots placing starting center Bryan Stork on Injured Reserve with the Designation to Return after 8 weeks. So that means he'll be out for Weeks 1-8 of the Regular Season. The Patriots haven't been able to find their top starting 3 interior offensive linemen. Here are the options the Patriots have in the interim.
Ryan Wendell: Wendell has starting experience at all 3 positions, with most of them coming at center (2012-2013) and right guard (2014). Wendell has the longest tenure on the team for the offensive line and is a shoo-in for a starting spot, most likely at center. Wendell did not play much of the preseason, only appearing briefly in the 4th preseason game, but the reason for starting him at center is he has the most experience on the team at the position and knows all the calls.
David Andrews: Andrews has the most experience this preseason at center, starting all four preseason games at the spot. An UDFA from the University of Georgia, Andrews might be the top backup at center this year but Belichick may be hesitant to throw out two, maybe even three rookies on the offensive line. With Wendell likely starting the game at center, Andrews might take on a backup role for the first game. Andrews may get a chance to start later down the road, but the team is probably better served plugging in a veteran for the interim and then going back to Andrews after the bye.
Josh Kline: Kline has starting experience at both guard spots in his two seasons in New England and has looked solid in the games he's played in. When Stork went down against the Ravens, the team shifted Wendell to center and inserted Kline at RG. The offense did not miss a beat as Kline did a solid job of keeping Brady upright against the Ravens and creating rushing lanes for LeGarrette Blount against the Colts. I get the feeling that Josh Kline is better equipped to handle Steelers DL Cameron Heyward and will likely start at LG.
Tre' Jackson: Jackson played a lot of snaps at RG this preseason and performed well. A player with plenty of experience at the position coming out of college, Jackson's transition to the NFL should be fairly seamless. I have Jackson penciled in as the starter at RG for the season, his play in the preseason has not changed that. Jackson is a strong phone booth player, but lacks the athleticism to be a strong blocker at the 2nd level. The way the RG position is utilized, that should be more than enough. The Patriots can afford to start one rookie at the OL, because he has plenty of experience at the position at the collegiate level and Florida State's OL runs a lot of similar concepts to the Patriots.
Shaq Mason: Mason is the least experienced pass blocker in this group, which may work against him. The Patriots will likely dress 8 OL and with 9 on the roster, Mason may be the healthy scratch of the group early on because his inability to backup at center or right guard. Based on the RB position, the Patriots aren't likely to use the power running game, which is where Mason excels at. With the matchup against Cameron Heyward a potential issue, the team may simply opt for a better temporary option. Mason could be a larger factor in the configuration of the OL once Blount is activated.
My starting three is Kline-Wendell-Jackson. The team may end up inserting Andrews at center after the bye week, but the team needs an veteran stopgap option until then. With the uncertainty surrounding the interior now magnified with Stork being out for a significant period of time, the team needs to rally behind their veteran options. In addition, Andrews and Jackson were three year starters at their respective positions at the collegiate for teams that run pro-style offenses, so they are definitely legitimate options for the team should they want to explore them.