Is Ryan Wendell ready to replace Dan Koppen at center?
|09.03.12 at 2:35 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There will be a new full-time center snapping the ball to Tom Brady in 2012.
In the preseason that featured more moving parts along the Patriots offensive line than a well-oiled machine, Ryan Wendell appears to be that guy.
The reason? With center Dan Connolly likely moving over to take Brian Waters‘ spot at right guard and with guard/center Matt Tennant still learning the Patriots blocking schemes, Wendell is most-suited to the center job.
Wendell (3 starts) and Connolly (11 starts) shared those duties in 2011 when Dan Koppen went out with an ankle injury in the season opener in Miami. But this season, with the release of Koppen, Wendell appears to be the man who will get the call to handle signal-calling along the line and stabilize interior protection. Wendell has the experience advantage over Donald Thomas, who is certainly also in the mix as the Patriots consider interior depth along the offensive line.
Still, Wendell, who has played and practiced with Koppen since joining the Patriots in 2008 as an undrafted rookie out of Fresno State, the same school that produced Patriots Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins under coach Pat Hill.
“Koppen’s a great guy, great player and a great friend of mine and I’m happy to be his friend in the future,” Wendell said on Monday. “Being behind Koppen and watching him play for the last several years has been a great learning experience on how to be a pro.
“Specific examples, just work ethic, study habits, how to practice, being a pro is lot more than about what you do on Sundays.”
Wendell played in all four preseason games, starting the games against the Eagles and Giants. Last year, he started three games at center. He has started five games in his three seasons in the NFL.
“I think every year is different,” Wendell said. “The only similarity is that you always are trying to do the best you can in your role. You go out and try to work every day and you just try to get better at whatever that role is.
“You’re just happy to be out there and work hard each day and try to get better at your job. I’m most comfortable every day going out and trying to play football, do my best.”
There has been plenty of speculation that no one has seen the “real” Patriots offensive line yet since they did not employ the “no-huddle” or “hurry-up” in preseason games. Could the tempo change drastically this Sunday?
“We’ll have to see on Sunday when that comes up,” Wendell said. “I’m really excited. I think everybody is to get the season started in earnest, to fight for wins that count toward our record. I think we’re all excited for that, I am. I’m just really excited to go out there and just try to do the best I can in my role.
“Like I said, we’ll find out on Sunday.”