The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with wide receiver Danny Amendola.
Name: Danny Amendola
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 80
Size: 5’11, 190 lbs.
2015 review: Statistically, the 2015 season was Danny Amendola’s best since joining New England in 2013. The veteran wide receiver appeared in 16 of the Patriots’ 18 games and played 53.8% of the team’s offensive snaps (674 of 1,253) as well as 11.7% of its special teams snaps (64 of 549).
Amendola worked mostly as the Patriots’ slot receiver and was one of the primary targets on offense behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman. When Edelman went down with a foot injury in week 10 and missed the rest of the regular season, Amendola took over his responsibilities as Tom Brady’s number one wide receiver option. And he became one of the few relatively constant options on an otherwise ever-changing cast of skill position players, despite struggling with injuries of his own (knee, ankle).
Despite missing two games because of those injuries, Amendola caught 72 passes for 705 yards and three touchdowns during the 2015 season. He also added two rushes for 11 yards and one 36-yard pass completion to Tom Brady in addition to working as a returnman. On special teams, Amendola returned both punts (27 for 330 yards) and kicks (8 for 172 yards). His 1,107 all-purpose yards were the second most on the team.
2016 preview: In early May, Amendola restructured his contract and lowered his 2016 cap hit from $6.8 million, the highest number among the Patriots' offensive skill position players, to a more reasonable $2.9 million. The move, contract structure and Amendola’s role as one of the team’s top pass catchers and one of Tom Brady’s most trusted options make the 30-year old a lock to make the roster.
Amendola had offseason surgery to deal with his 2015 injuries and thus has been placed on the physically unable to perform list to start training camp. Once he comes off the list, he is expected to resume his role as New England’s top slot receiver. While he plays a prominent role within the Patriots’ offense, the question is how the additions of Martellus Bennett, Chris Hogan and rookie Malcolm Mitchell influence his playing time this upcoming season.
If everyone stays healthy, Amendola will likely be the top slot receiver as well as the third or fourth receiving option on offense, depending on situation and personnel group - a role similar to last year’s. However, while he will probably play 50-60% of offensive snaps again, he might see less targets than last season, when the receiving corps outside of him and Gronkowski struggled with injuries and consistency. Amendola still projects to be a fixture on 3+ receiver packages and, given his chemistry with Brady, hurry-up packages.
On special teams, Amendola will probably see less playing time. The team already tried to limit his return responsibilities during the 2015 season, when he became New England’s number one wide receiver after Edelman broke his foot. Now that the team has added able returnman Cyrus Jones via the draft, Amendola’s contributions on special teams might become even more marginal.
As he has been the last three years, Danny Amendola will likely be a role player within the Patriots’ offense in 2016. And that is perfectly fine, now that his contract has been restructured to properly reflect his role.
In the past, the 30-year old has shown an ability to come up big when called upon, even if he has not been called upon as often as other receiving options. This season will probably not be much different – and that is perfectly fine, too.