The New England Patriots signed wide receiver Danny Amendola during 2013 free agency to replace Wes Welker, one of the greatest receivers in franchise history. Amendola has flashed impressive ability in the open field and he seemed like a perfect fit wth the Patriots.
Amendola tore his groin in his very first game with the Patriots and has failed to live up to the lofty expectations, while also putting together some incredibly clutch moments. His 1,694 receiving yards over 4 years in a Patriots uniform is still shy of his 1,726 receiving yards in 4 years as a member of the St. Louis Rams. He has fallen to fourth in the Patriots wide receiver depth chart, behind Julian Edelman, who ultimately won the trust of quarterback Tom Brady in 2013, Chris Hogan, and rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
Amendola just set a career high with 4 touchdown receptions this season, but his 19.4 yards per game in 2016 is the second lowest of his career.
The Patriots signed Chris Long as an afterthought after the first wave of free agency in 2016. It was a 1-year, $2 million deal for a veteran on possibly his last legs that had been injured in each of the prior two seasons. Long was expected to be the #3 or #4 edge defender for the Patriots, behind Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, and maybe even sophomore Trey Flowers.
Long won the starting job out of camp and he leads all Patriots defensive linemen in snaps. He was most recently seen forcing a game-winning fumble against the Jets.
Two former Rams signed by the Patriots with very different fanfare and very different results. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick appreciates what both players bring to the team.
“Chris has been great,” Belichick said about Long on Wednesday. “He works really had. He’s very dependable, there every day, kind of first-one-in, last-one-out mentality. He works hard in the weight room. He studies the game plan, really tries to understand how you want him to play a play or how you want him to do a certain thing and he does his very best to do it. So you can’t ask for any more than that.”
“Danny does a great job for us in whatever we ask him to do,” Belichick said about Amendola before the Jets game, “return kicks, punts, block, play in the red-area, play on third-down, play in two-minute. He’s a really dependable, consistent player; tough. He seems like he always has his best plays in those critical situations when you need them most. He’s been very valuable for us, especially for a guy that missed all of training camp, really didn’t start practice until the first week there before we opened with Arizona. But he’s done a great job for us. He’s helped us win a lot of games.”
Amendola was a key player during the Patriots run at Super Bowl XLIX and he followed it up with a solid 2015 campaign, but offseason surgery to his knee limited his availability in camp. Amendola has stepped up at every opportunity granted, but he hasn’t received as many chances as he arguably deserves.
Long has done well with the Patriots and he appears to be doing better as the third defensive end in the rotation with Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. Belichick says he has been watched Long “since he came out of Virginia...followed his career” and leapt at the opportunity to sign him.
Long will probably have a bigger role for the Patriots on Sunday against the Rams, but Amendola’s stock is rising with TE Rob Gronkowski’s season in jeopardy. Both could have good days against their former team.
While Amendola and Long were received with different expectations, both have made crucial plays in their time with the Patriots and the franchise will rely on both players to step up if New England is going to have a shot at another Super Bowl title.