The biggest storyline of the beginning of the NFL season is the quarterback situation in New England.
Future Hall of Famer Tom Brady will be forced to sit the first four games and the Patriots offense will be led by the relatively untested Jimmy Garoppolo. One player who has a unique perspective on the Brady-Garoppolo dynamic is the man who snaps the ball to both of them: center David Andrews.
Andrews is in his second season after signing with the Patriots in 2015. When starter Bryan Stork went down with an injury prior to the 2015 season, Andrews stepped in and started the first 11 games of the season. He has also appeared to take the lead in the competition to be this year’s starting center, thanks in part to another Stork injury and strong play in his own right.
Andrews expressed confidence in both Brady and Garoppolo as well as the offense as a whole. That confidence will need to carry over into September when Andrews, along with his fellow linemen, will faced some of the best front sevens in football in the first four weeks.
“It really doesn’t matter who’s back there,” Andrews said. “My job is to get them the ball and block my butt off so they can make plays and they’re both very capable of doing that… I have confidence that whoever is back there is going to know what to do.”
The running game will also be important to helping the young quarterback succeed and Tyler Gaffney, who missed last season due to injury, will be a major factor in that. Patriots fans are used to seeing large, bruising running backs such as Corey Dillon and LeGarrette Blount have major impacts in the postseason. At 6-feet, 220 pounds, Gaffney fits the mold of a strong back who also moves well and can help fill that role.
Both the running backs and offensive linemen will be critical in 2016, especially early. If the Patriots can get solid production from both of those units, they have a legitimate chance of welcoming back Tom Brady in week five while leading the AFC East.