His quickness, toughness and ability to get open over the middle have made him a quick fit in the Patriots offense.
He's only been on the field for five of the team's nine games, but he's getting healthy at the right time, and was listed as a full participant in practice on Thursday for the first time since Week 1. Even in his limited playing time, Amendola has shown something a lot of receivers have lacked: quick chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady.
It's not just about showing up on Sunday to do his job, though. With his immediate impact on the field, and his work ethic off the field, Amendola is writing the book on how to be a successful receiver for the Patriots.
"It's all about coming to work excited to work as hard as you can every day, regardless of what it is that you're going to be doing," he told Bleacher Report, "[whether you're] just watching film that day or running routes that day or lifting weights or even eating healthy or stuff like that. A lot of things to go into being a professional or being a good football player that isn't necessarily on-the-field work."
Amendola's skill set is a perfect fit for the New England Patriots and for Brady, who loves throwing to his slot receivers over the middle of the field. Just ask many of the other slot receivers to catch his passes.
In that respect, Amendola has big shoes to fill in the slot. If the constant comparisons to former Patriots receiver Wes Welker weren't enough, he also wears No. 80, worn by Troy Brown. Between those two, Amendola hearkens back to the two leading pass-catchers in Patriots history.
The constant comparisons to Welker could get grating for some, but Amendola doesn't seem to mind.
"I mean, I understand it," he told Bleacher Report. "Wes is a great player, he's been a great player for a long time. I've been watching him play since we went to [Texas Tech] together. He's a great player. I'm not worried about it. That's not really something that I focus on and worry about. The only thing I really worry about is getting my job done."
He hasn't had to worry about it; he's been playing the slot like a fiddle since he showed up in Foxborough.
|Danny Amendola, 2013|
|Pro Football Focus|
Almost all of his production comes from the inside, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and when he's been on the field, he's been one of the most dangerous slot receivers on a per-play basis. In fact, he earns the eighth-most yards per route run from the slot of any qualifying receiver.
Thus far, he's been dependable in that role. He stormed out of the gate against the Bills with 10 catches for 104 yards. Seven of his 10 receptions that day converted a third down for a first down.
This catch shows his ability to make sight adjustments on the fly.
He was set to run a slant route from the slot over the middle of the field, but the way he ran it allowed him to get open against the Bills coverage.
"You have a play called in the huddle," he said, "and you might have a certain route in mind that you're going to run, but depending on the defense, that could change. You find out if it's going to change or not on the run, post-snap, so having the ability to do that and play the game fast and get yourself in that position will get you the best chance to do that."
A normal slant has just one cut, but here, Amendola cut twice to give himself a half-step on the defender.
As it turned out, a half-step was all he needed to make the catch.
That being said, it's not all freelancing out there; the Patriots run a precision offense, and that requires the receivers to run their routes exactly as scripted, without much room for improv.
"It's all about precision route-running," he said. "Getting yourself in the right position to get the ball. If you run a route a yard too deep or a yard too short, the ball might be off a little bit, and it's all about precision. That's why we practice every day and meet for so long and watch all the film. That's what it's all about."
His performance against the Pittsburgh Steelers was memorable for his big catches of 34 and 57 yards, including for his first touchdown as a Patriot, but he was wide-open on all of those plays, not requiring the precision route-running of which Amendola spoke.
This play, however, was one of his shorter catches of the day—a 10-yard strike on 3rd-and-6.
Amendola started in motion toward the slot, and Brady snapped the ball with Amendola in a "stack" formation behind Aaron Dobson on the outside. He ran an out-route with a slight step inside to help him get the defensive back turned around off the snap.
Brady started throwing the ball before Amendola came out of his break, on precisely the seventh step off the line of scrimmage.
That's the kind of precision the Patriots ask for from their receivers on a weekly basis. As a receiver, you have to be ready for the ball to come at a certain time, and you have to be able to get open at a certain time. Amendola did both of those things well on this play.
Those are traits that made Welker a favorite target of Brady's for years.
One thing that sets Amendola apart from Welker is his ability to go long for deep passes. He's not a prototype "deep threat" by any stretch, but he has enough speed to make a defensive back pay.
Against the Bengals, he caught a 21-yard pass in traffic by navigating through defenders and keeping his foot on the gas. He adjusted his route a little on the fly, weaving a little bit as he made his way downfield.
He set up Bengals defensive back Chris Crocker with an in-and-out move before breaking back inside on a post.
Once again, he had a defender draped all over him but was able to use his strong hands to make the catch away from his frame.
Amendola has been fighting through injuries, but no one will question his toughness. Not after playing through a sore groin against the Bills and Bengals and not after making one tough catch after another with defenders hanging off him.
Despite his injuries, he has been dependable when he's on the field, and he's still managed to make an impact in his short time with the Patriots. And he's getting healthy at just the right time to help the Patriots as they continue their march to the playoffs and, potentially, a top seed in the conference.
Danny Amendola and Gillette have teamed up to highlight the importance of precision in both football and shaving. Gillette is giving fans the chance to test their own precision when it comes to football. You can play the "Precision Play of the Week" trivia game on Facebook.
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