While the details and outlook of David Andrews’ recovery from a recently discovered blood clot in his lungs are not known at this point, the New England Patriots’ starting center is expected to miss considerable time because of the medical issue. With the team captain, who started 68 games for the Patriots since 2015, likely out for at least the early portions of the regular season, the backups behind him are now in the spotlight.
As things currently stand, three players are competing for the staring role at the heart of New England’s offense:
Let’s take a closer look at the three men, starting with the player that can be seen as the favorite to take over for Andrews until the 27-year-old is able to return to the field.
If the past is any indication, fourth-year man Ted Karras will fill Andrews’ spot in the Patriots’ starting lineup — and for good reason. Karras has been a reliable presence for the team since joining it as a sixth-round draft pick in 2016: playing both guard and center, he regularly filled in for absent starters and generally held his ground. The 2018 season, when he started two games at right guard in place of an injured Shaq Mason, was no exception.
All in all, Karras has seven starts on his NFL résumé and it seems likely that he will add some more this year. While he never held a starting position for an extended period of time, the 26-year-old should be ready to do so this year: he has the experience with quarterback Tom Brady and in the team’s system to be successful right away. While he is a downgrade from Andrews, Karras is still one of the best backup options in the NFL.
James Ferentz entered his third year with the Patriots in a familiar role: the 30-year-old started training camp on the roster bubble. Andrews’ expected absence, however, should put him in a solid position to earn a backup spot along the interior offensive line — as do his versatility and experience: Ferentz has played in 22 games since entering the NFL in 2014 and can line up both at center and guard. He has had his ups and downs so far this summer, but should be a solid depth option along the interior line together with fourth-round rookie guard Hjalte Froholdt.
No other player on the Patriots’ roster has seen as many snaps at the center position this preseason as Tyler Gauthier. The undrafted rookie out of Miami has had his fair share of struggles early on during the summer, but steadily improved over the last few weeks. He still appears to be a longshot to make the roster even with Andrews expected to miss some time, but the Patriots may opt to keep him around on their practice squad if possible to offer additional developmental depth behind Karras and Ferentz.
All in all, there is no way around this: Andrews’ diagnosis is a blow for the team — let alone the player himself. However, thePatriots appear to be well equipped to keep moving forward. Yes, any replacement is a downgrade from one of the NFL’s best centers but the top duo of Ted Karras and James Ferentz gives the Patriots plenty of experience at the position. With Karras as the likely starter, New England’s offense should still be in good shape.