Ever since he beat out incumbent Bryan Stork in 2016, David Andrews has been the New England Patriots’ undisputed starting center — and one of the best players in the entire NFL at the position. Blood clots were discovered in his lungs during the summer, however, which led to the Patriots placing the 27-year-old on season-ending injured reserve. With Andrews out for the year, the team turned to Ted Karras to fill the void.
Karras originally came to New England during Andrews’ first year as the team’s starting center and carved out a role as a versatile and reliable backup along the interior offensive line. While he was clearly the fourth option, the former sixth-round draft pick did start seven games over his first three years in the league. It was therefore not at all surprising to see him named Andrews’ replacement for the 2019 season.
“Ted’s been a very dependable player for us for four years,” said head coach Bill Belichick when asked about the 26-year-old during a conference call earlier this week. “A couple years ago when David [Andrews] missed a couple games, Ted stepped in there and played center. He’s played guard for us. Fortunately for us, prior to this year we’ve had Shaq [Mason], David and Joe [Thuney]; and they have been very durable.”
New England expected to again enter the regular season with their starting interior offensive line intact, but the late August news of Andrews’ medical situation changed the picture drastically: not only would the team have to incorporate a new left tackle into the lineup — second-year man Isaiah Wynn was pegged to replace free agency departure Trent Brown — but also adjust to a new man in the middle.
“With David’s situation, Ted’s had the opportunity to play more and he’s stepped in and played consistently like he really always has for us,” said Belichick. “We’re very fortunate that we have him and have his experience. Ted’s a smart player, he’s strong, he can anchor the middle of the pocket and his communication with his teammates on the offensive line, which is critical for the center position to handle blocking schemes and protections and so forth, has been good.”
“He’s obviously grown each week with the experience and the opportunity to continue to work together with his teammates. The consistency and communication definitely improves little by little, but it’s a new challenge each week because each defense is different,” New England’s head coach continued. “The plays we run are a little bit different and what they do is a little bit different, so there’s certainly continuity and carryover.”
“But at the same time, there’s a newness and a variety to each week, which presents its own challenges both of personnel matchups and scheme adjustments. He’s done a good job for us, though,” said Belichick. Karras’ tape and numbers certainly agree with the future Hall of Fame coach: while the Patriots have had their fair share of inconsistent play up front, Karras has performed well in his first full-time starting opportunity.
Ranked as the twelfth best center in the NFL by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus, the Illinois product has posted some solid stats as well: Karras has surrendered just five combined pressures over the course of New England’s first six games (one sack, two hits, two hurries) — solid numbers, and reflective of the potential that he has within the Patriots’ offense. All in all, the team can therefore feel good about the center position.