For the New England Patriots, it’s been a busy offseason with all the negative press surrounding their players. As they look to open their 2013 training camp on Friday morning, the team will put the recent stories behind them and focus on football.
One of the lead stories not only for training camp but for the regular season is whether new Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola can be the next Wes Welker.
After utilizing two talented tight ends as favorite weapons for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the past few seasons, this duo is forever broken up and now this void could be filled through the role of of slot receiver this season.
Amendola will take over this after the team said goodbye to Welker in the offseason; he will have large shoes to fill.
As Brady’s favorite target in the last six seasons, Welker had 672 receptions and five record-setting seasons for his more than 100 receptions. He gave a whole new meaning to the slot-receiver role.
For Amendola, this position isn’t completely foreign to him from his days as a St. Louis Ram. His 2011 former offensive coordinator and now his current one, is Josh McDaniels. This will ease the transition.
Last season, Amendola’s production was similar to Welker’s when he played as a slot receiver, reported ESPN.
Lining Up in the Slot 2012 (including playoffs)
|Rec per game||5.5||4.6|
* Six on 38 third-down targets
(Statistics from ESPN)
Keeping his drops low will endear Amendola to his new quarterback as well as remaining healthy. This is something the player has struggled with in his career, notably in the last two seasons; he has only played 12 games over this time period. Amendola has battled a dislocated clavicle, missing five games in 2012 and in the previous season, he missed 15 games after going down in Week 1.
From the 11 games that he did play in 2012, he had 63 receptions for 666 yards and three touchdowns. Keep in mind this came with playing for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. He’s no Tom Brady and you have to think Amendola’s new quarterback will have him playing at a higher level.
That’s what Brady does.
For Welker, his regular season attendance is impressive: he only missed three Patriots games in his six years with the team. This is hard for any player to replicate.
Being injury prone will forever haunt Amendola but being 27-years-old and 5’11” vs. Welker’s 32 and 5’9″ looks like an advantage on paper.
But maybe one of the biggest hurdles for Amendola to overcome before you can say he’s the next Welker is his greatest intangible: his chemistry with Brady. This was a big plus in Welker’s corner but for Brady, he can throw the ball to anyone.
According to Sporting News, through his career, the quarterback has thrown touchdown passes to 45 different NFL players. He does what it takes to get the job done but it appears he is building chemistry with his new receiver.
He said to NESN regarding Amendola during training camp, “All those little cues that you’re using to try to anticipate things as a player [is] very important. That’s why some guys really pick things up and why you develop a chemistry with certain players. Like Aaron and Rob, they got it so quickly and they were very talented players. Danny’s come in and done [it].”
Brady added, “He’s fun to play with. He works so hard. He’s out diving out there for catches. He’s really done everything that we’ve asked him to do. So it’s been a lot of fun.”
So far, the signs are pointing toward potential success with Amendola but fans won’t get a real gauge until the two play throughout the season.
And maybe in 2014 as well.