With opening day still more than two months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with the Patriots’ starting center.
Name: David Andrews
Jersey number: 60
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’3, 295 lbs.
2016 review: After a solid rookie campaign which saw him start the Patriots’ first 10 games of the season, Andrews entered training camp in an open competition with incumbent starter Bryan Stork. The former undrafted rookie was able to beat out fourth round draft pick Stork and became New England’s official starting center on opening day against the Arizona Cardinals.
Over the course of the season, Andrews started all 16 of the Patriots’ regular season games as well as the team’s three playoff contests en route to a Super Bowl victory. Overall, he played more offensive snaps than any other player on the team: During the regular season, he missed only four snaps as he played 1,116 of 1,120 (99.6%). Andrews was also on the field for all 242 of New England’s offensive postseason snaps.
Andrews was not only an integral part of the operation in terms of playing time, he also was a steady and reliable presence from a pure performance perspective. Blocking with better strength and more authority than in 2015, Andrews helped pave the way on 142 running attempts up the gut during the regular season, gaining a team-high 3.98 yards per attempt. He also was the Patriots’ lone offensive lineman not to give up a sack and gave up only seven hits and 14 hurries.
During the playoffs, both statistics looked less stellar: New England gained only 2.71 yards per carry behind Andrews (fourth best on the team) while he gave up two sacks and teo hurries in three games. All in all, though, the former undrafted rookie proved himself a capable and productive interior lineman; one that has gained the trust of both quarterback Tom Brady and the coaching staff. And one that played a tremendous season despite some late-season inconsistencies.
2017 preview: In May, the Patriots signed David Andrews to a three-year, $9.0 million contract extension. Not only will the deal keep him in New England through the 2020 season, it also basically guarantees that Andrews will serve as the team's starting center in 2017. And as such, he will once again be among the team’s integral players and its leaders in offensive snaps.
While his role and playing time are not projected to change, Andrews’ level of performance might. In his first year as a full-time starter, he has been a solid and reliable member of the interior offensive line. He still has room to grow, though: The soon-to-be 25-year old has shown some inconsistencies against both quicker and stronger defensive tackles in the past.
Consequently, Andrews might benefit from an offseason in which he is the clear-cut top option at his position. Ideally, he further improves his technique, strength and as communication especially with guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. If that is the case, New England's young offensive line would take another step towards becoming one of the NFL's better units – with Andrews right at its heart.