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Bryan Stork and Jonathan Cooper absences could open the door for younger players to shine

David Andrews has a golden opportunity to win the starting center job with Bryan Stork out again.
David Andrews has a golden opportunity to win the starting center job with Bryan Stork out again.
Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The two biggest news pieces from today's practice is the injuries/absences to starting center Bryan Stork and starting right guard Jonathan Cooper. There's no word on Stork's absence, but we do know what's bothering Cooper. Both players have had a history of injuries in the NFL. Stork has missed 13/37 possible games over his career with various injuries and the same problem is what led to the Arizona Cardinals trading Cooper to the Patriots. Bill Belichick values availability over overall ability and his mentor, Bill Parcells, is famous for the phrase, "Can't make the club from the tub". With no established timetable for either's return, that means other players will have opportunities to get extra reps they wouldn't have gotten.

The two players who are most affected by this are 2nd year center David Andrews and 6th round rookie Ted Karras. Andrews was the team's starting center the first ten games of the 2015 season and had some solid moments in the role before getting replaced by Stork in the team's 10th game of the year. The biggest issue for Andrews was play strength, which he took to heart and won one of the team's strength and conditioning offseason awards. It was Stork's absence last year that thrusted Andrews into the spotlight and initially holding his own at the pivot, and another injury could wind up being the opportunity he needs to lock up the position full-time.

With Shaq Mason just freshly off the Physically Unable to Perform list, along with Josh Kline also recovering from 2nd half injuries from last year, the Patriots inserted rookie Ted Karras in at right guard when Cooper was carted off the field with plantar fasciitis. Cooper's timetable to return will depend on how much pain he can tolerate and whether or not Ted Karras proves he can play in the NFL. Karras has plug and play potential and this also opens an opportunity for the team to get a more fair evaluation of a player on the roster bubble. Karras has 43 starts in college, so there is plenty of experience he can rely on even though the competition level is significantly higher in the NFL. The team does have fallback options with Kline and Mason at guard, should Karras prove he isn't ready.