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Patriots O-linemen Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell warrant more respect

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few quick thoughts after digesting Pro Football Focus' annual ranking of NFL rostersInsider:

Stork and Wendell were part of key turnaround: New England Patriots offensive linemen Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell were included in the category of starters who should be upgraded, which piqued interest because their insertion into the starting lineup in 2014 sparked a critical turnaround for the offensive line. Once Stork was healthy to assume duties at center and Wendell got the call at right guard, things settled down. Stork looks like a long-term fixture at center at this point, although in fairness, Wendell was essentially the coaching staff's fourth choice at right guard last season after Jordan Devey, Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming. So it wouldn't be a surprise if Wendell, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is indeed fighting to keep his job this season.

Really that big of a gap in the AFC East? I was a little surprised at the split between the Patriots and their AFC East rivals, with an 11-spot edge over the Bills, a 17-spot edge over the Jets and a 19-spot edge over the Dolphins. I see the division ultimately winding up a little tighter than that in 2015. The key question, of course, is how the quarterback positions unfold with the Bills, Jets and Dolphins.

Respect for Hightower: If you were picking the Patriots' five best players, would linebacker Dont'a Hightower be part of it? He's close, and in this analysis, PFF puts him in the top-five class. That's a credit to Hightower, who some in the media were quick to write off after his first two seasons. He had a very strong 2014 season, showing impressive toughness to play through a shoulder injury late in the year.