Reiss listed 3rd round pick Joe Thuney as a center on the offensive line.
"Thuney's intelligence might make him a natural fit in the pivot after the Patriots selected him in the third round, which could push Stork to guard," Reiss explains. "Thuney is also a candidate to play guard."
I've gone through the whole range of emotions over Thuney. At first I thought he'd be a fantastic long term replacement for Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. Then Thuney said he envisioned himself at guard in the NFL and I thought he'd be a solid left guard for the next long while.
And then news broke that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia worked Thuney out at center. I no longer had any idea of what to expect.
I liked the versatility of Thuney because left tackle Nate Solder is the only player inked into a starting role beyond 2016. Vollmer will be a free agent and then the interior line was such a disaster in 2015 that no player is guaranteed to even make the roster for this upcoming year.
Belichick has never hesitated to cut a 4th round pick in their second season, so while Shaq Mason finished the season on a high note, Tre Jackson and his recently scoped and potentially chronically injured knees are in jeopardy.
In fact, it was the questions surrounding Jackson's knees that justified Thuney's move to the interior. Since Jonathan Cooper is a free agent after this season and hasn't proven anything at the NFL level, the injury questions surrounding Jackson leave just Mason and Josh Kline as viable guard prospects moving forward; adding Thuney to the mix just makes sense.
But moving Thuney to center would be a whole different ball game. The Patriots have Bryan Stork and David Andrews at center and an offensive line guru said that the difference between the two players is negligible. Thuney's versatility makes one of those players expendable, and possibly even marks a position change for Stork.
While this is just speculation, New England Patriots Draft writer Mike Loyko posed the idea of the Patriots moving Stork to right tackle. Stork played a game and a half at right tackle in 2015 and wasn't a total disaster, all things considered.
There's also the obvious concern about Stork's availability as he's played just 21 of a possible 36 games over his first two seasons. Perhaps the Patriots would like a more reliable player at the pivot.
Personally, I would rather Thuney play on the outside than Stork. I would also open up a full on competition with every single position on the interior line.
Stork, Andrews, Kline, Jackson, Mason, Cooper, Thuney, and even 6th round pick Ted Karras should have a fair shot at winning a role on the interior, with the top combo owning the starting roles. If that means Thuney is at left guard, Mason is at center, and Stork is at right guard, so be it.
Here are some options on the interior.
The Most Experienced
LG Josh Kline - C Bryan Stork - RG Jonathan Cooper
Stork, for all of his time missed, is the most experienced interior offensive lineman on the roster with 1,287 regular season snaps. Kline comes in a close second with 1,264 snaps, and Cooper is third with 822. Andrews (763), Mason (735), and Jackson (607) bring up the rear.
For comparison, cornerback Malcolm Butler played 1,199 snaps in 2015 alone. The Most Experienced interior line is still wildly inexperienced.
The Best Run Blockers
LG Josh Kline - C Bryan Stork - RG Shaq Mason
Mason is the team's best run blocker on the interior, although Stork is no slouch. Both use their physical natures to blow defenders off the ball. Kline is more of a finesse blocker, but he uses his athleticism to take advantage of small players at the second level.
The Best Pass Blockers
LG Joe Thuney - C David Andrews - RG Ted Karras
This isn't very helpful? But Thuney and Karras were selected because of their pass blocking prowess and Andrews was far superior to Stork as a pass blocker in 2015 (albeit with superior offensive skill players available). This would be one of the least experienced units, but Mason, Jackson, Stork, and Cooper were all negative pass blockers last season. A healthy Kline would probably bump Karras off the line, but I'd be interested to see how Karras performs.
The Bulkiest Blockers
LG Jonathan Cooper - C Bryan Stork - RG Tre Jackson
Jackson is the biggest player on the interior at 330 pounds, while Cooper and Stork are the only two players above 310 pounds. This isn't the biggest interior line in the league.
The Most Athletic
LG Shaq Mason - C Joe Thuney - RG Jonathan Cooper
This would be fun to watch. Kline and Andrews are considered the "average" athlete on the offensive line, while former Florida State teammates Stork and Jackson and the 6th round Karras come in below average across the board. Mason is the most athletic player on the interior, followed closely by Cooper. Thuney is the least-bulky player on the interior, but his athleticism more than makes up for the lack of weight.