When you think of the Patriots receiving corps, the players that quickly come to mind are Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Dion Lewis, and Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots usually wind up splitting the duties between a 3rd WR, a 2nd TE, or an extra blocker. With foot surgery sidelining LaFell, who looked very rusty on Sunday, that yielded an opportunity for 3rd year disappointment Aaron Dobson to establish himself in the offense. That never happened and it pushed Amendola into the 2nd WR role despite the fact he's more like Edelman in terms of skill set than LaFell or Dobson. Despite the fact that the Patriots likely overpaid for a previously underutilized receiver, Danny Amendola has been a very dependable player when the Patriots offense needs a play.
Amendola was initially signed to take over in the Wes Welker role in the offense as the go-to-guy in critical situations, but that never happened because of a groin injury and Julian Edelman seizing that role in Amendola's absence. Edelman has since not relinquished that role, but Amendola has found a niche in this offense after struggling to find snaps in 2014. Despite the lack of a defined role, Amendola showed up when the Patriots needed him most. He scored a huge TD against the Jets last year in Foxborough and converted critical 3rd downs in Edelman's absence in the game in New Jersey. Amendola was critical in the two playoff games against the Ravens and Seahawks with a combined 3 TD. Without him, the Patriots don't even make it to Super Bowl XLIX.
This year, he's been asked to step up to a larger role for the team after taking a pay-cut to stay with the team. He is the team's primary kick returner and alternates with Edelman on punt returns in addition to his duties on offense. With all tthe attention that Gronk and Edelman get in the passing game, that usually leaves Amendola singled against #2/3 CBs. That's a favorable match-up when Brady's first reads are covered up. In the Colts game, Amendola had a critical 3rd and long conversion on the Patriots opening drive. Against the Jets, Amendola was the Patriots' most dependable target with LaFell and Edelman catching a nasty case of the Drops. Amendola made two acrobatic catches for the go-ahead TD and to convert another critical 3rd down. If he keeps this up, I may have to write him in as an X-Factor every week.