The New England Patriots received some good news before heading into their bye week. Starting center David Andrews, who had missed the previous two games with a concussion, returned to practice on Wednesday.
Andrews had suffered the concussion on an illegal blindside hit late in the Week 7 loss to the Chicago Bears, and has remained in concussion protocol ever since. The Patriots went 2-0 during his absence, but the offensive line was a major problem: the unit failed to generate a consistent push in the run game and surrendered several quarterback pressures.
Getting the long-time team captain back into the lineup might not solve all of those issues — the Patriots’ run blocking in particular has had its ups and downs before his injury — but it should lead to some improved play both at center and at the other four spots up front.
Additionally, Andrews’ return should help with other aspects as well. Communication, setting protection, and leadership are just three areas that come to mind, with the latter in particular mentioned by tight end Hunter Henry on Wednesday.
“It’s great. Captain, great leader for us. It’s awesome to have him back,” Henry told reporters about Andrews’ return. “It’s huge. Vocal, guy’s been around. Won a lot of football games around here. Kind of knows the standard and what it is around, so it’s always good to have a guy like that.”
Before his concussion, Andrews had been on the field for all 423 offensive snaps — one of three players in the 100-percent club alongside left tackle Trent Brown and right guard Michael Onwenu. His presence helped stabilize a line that had seen significant turnover since the 2021 season, with the other four starting spots all changed.
And while James Ferentz filled in admirably, he is a downgrade compared to Andrews. This, in turn, might also have contributed to rookie left guard Cole Strange struggling the past two weeks and getting benched twice in favor of nominal right tackle Isaiah Wynn.
Strange should benefit from getting Andrews back, and so should the entire offense according to former Patriots O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“There’s no doubt that David’s a really good player. He’s the starting center,” Scarnecchia told host Phil Perry on the new The Next Pats Podcast.
“I love James Ferentz a lot. He’s a really, really tough guy and a good player. David is a captain. He’s a leader. He does a great job of communicating to everyone what they need to do and how to do it. When necessary, give help to certain guys that may need help against certain pass rushers when it’s possible to do it. So, getting him back in there will help no doubt.”
Andrews and the Patriots’ line will get tested right away in his return. The group will go up against the New York Jets in Week 11, facing a defensive line that registered 17 quarterback pressures on 44 dropbacks (38.6%) the last time these two teams met in Week 8, via Pro Football Focus.