Patriots starting offensive lineman Ryan Wendell practiced on Tuesday, a signal that he has been removed from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Wendell, who is entering his eighth season, has experience starting at both guard and center.
Wendell entered in the NFL as an undrafted free agent and has played his entire career with the Patriots. He played on two AFC Champion teams and won Super Bowl XLIX with the team. With Wendell returning, the interior offensive line picture becomes more interesting.
Rookies Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson have gotten a lot of guard reps alongside starting center Bryan Stork and fill in David Andrews so far through camp and the preseason. Jackson looks primed to potentially start this season at one guard spot, which leaves the other spot to come down between Wendell and Mason. Mason is an excellent run blocker but has had trouble in pass protection, due in part to his limited experience in that area. Wendell is also a better run blocker than pass blocker, but has more experience protecting Tom Brady.
The Patriots will have a decision to make over the next two weeks, whether to go with Mason or Wendell as the final starting offensive lineman. In this writer’s view, Wendell looks to be the favorite if healthy. Mason could win the job and could end up being the better player, but Wendell has the experience edge and that makes a difference when the Patriots will already definitely be starting a second year player (Stork) and probably a rookie (Mason) as well. Health will be the key for Wendell, the more of an impact he can make through the rest of the preseason the better. Unlike last season, the Patriots look ready to enter the regular season with solid options along the inside of the offensive line.