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Ryan Wendell has been quiet but steady in front of Tom Brady.
This preseason, it looked as though either Dan Connolly or Dan Koppen would be New England's starting center. Instead, Connolly moved to right guard, Koppen was cut, and the center job went to fourth-year undrafted interior lineman Ryan Wendell.
It's been several months, and no one is second-guessing the personnel decision. The ex-Fresno State Bulldog has been one of the best run-blocking centers in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
In November, offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia praised Wendell in an interview with The Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young:
I think clearly the obvious is that he replaced a very, very good football player and a very popular football player. That’s as tough a decision as we’ve ever had around here for those reasons. But we also knew that this is a young guy that has played very well when we’ve asked him to play.
After having started just five games through his first three NFL seasons, Wendell has stepped in and notched starts in all 12 contests this year. He may not carry the resume of a Dan Koppen or a Jeff Saturday, but Wendell's solid protection in front of Tom Brady has been invaluable nonetheless.