Countdown to Kickoff: Profile on New England Patriots No. 66 Bryan Stork

The Countdown to Kickoff series continues on with a look at New England Patriots strong and stable center Bryan Stork, who will be looking to hammer down his starting spot this summer.

There are exactly 66 days until the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers open up the 2016 NFL regular season with a Super Bowl rematch. In the meantime, we at NFL Spin Zone are going to profile a player each day as we countdown the days to kickoff.

The Countdown to Kickoff series began with a look at No. 99 Joey Bosa and has continued on everyday since (check out all of the posts here).

There were plenty of strong choices to profile at No. 66, including Gabe Jackson, David DeCastro and rookie Nick Martin. However, I decided on a center who will be squarely involved in a position battle this off season.

Let’s take a look at New England Patriots offensive lineman Bryan Stork.

Stork was a fourth-round pick (105th overall) by the Patriots in the 2014 NFL Draft. A mean and nasty offensive lineman who dominated on the run game on the inside, Stork was a personal favorite of Patriots’ legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

While Stork did not start from the get-go as a rookie, he eventually took over as the team’s starting center and was a major reason for the team’s improvement up front down the stretch in 2014.

Stork was an absolute stud for the Patriots as a rookie center, and was a major contributor to their Super Bowl championship team. However, 2015 did not exactly go according to plan.

A concussion/neck injury forced Stork to begin the 2015 season on the IR, and he ended up missing the Patriots’ first seven games of the season. In his absence, undrafted rookie David Andrews played extremely well as the Patriots’ starting center.

Stork did eventually get back his starting center job, but Andrews never really went away. Stork helped out the team by playing some right tackle last season as the offensive line was absolutely killed with injuries, but Stork is clearly best suited as an interior offensive lineman.

Andrews and Stork enter 2016 as co-starters at the center position. They will battle for the starting job in training camp, with both players seemingly having an equal opportunity to lock down the job.

Stork is probably the slight favorite to be the Patriots’ starting center, but the unit as a whole was better with Andrews at center last season. Now, injuries at other positions certainly played a role in the Patriots’ struggles when Stork got back, but he was not near as dominant as he was in his rookie season.

Having Scarnecchia back as the offensive line coach is a good thing for every Patriots’ offensive lineman. However, considering he was hand-picked by Scar in the 2014 draft, Stork may be the one to benefit the most from his return.

That being said, this will be a real position battle, and Andrews has a legitimate opportunity to win the job. Also, if Andrews ends up being the starting center, I could see Stork entering the mix at the Patriots’ guard positions.

However, with guys like Shaq Mason, rookie Joe Thuney, Tre Jackson, Jonathan Cooper and Josh Kline battling it out at guard, playing time will not be easy to win there either.

I fully expect Stork to play a large role on the Patriots’ interior offensive line in 2016, but he is undoubtedly going to have to earn his position back.