Danny Amendola had 23 receptions in 12 games last regular season.
He now has 23 receptions in four games this regular season.
It’s a contrast that could have been foreseen when Julian Edelman was officially placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL on Sept. 2. But using his loss as the sole reason for Amendola’s gain would be doing a disservice to the latter.
What Amendola has done in the absence of the New England Patriots’ most-targeted wideout of the post-Wes Welker era deserves more credit than that. And his credit has been paid in numbers.
At 31 years old, and as the sixth-oldest member of the roster, Amendola is on pace for his most productive campaign since arriving in the league as a Dallas Cowboys undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech in 2008. He has accounted for 267 yards and one touchdown through the air thus far into 2017, despite missing one contest due to a concussion and knee injury, after accounting for 243 yards and four scores in all of 2016.
A YEAR’S TIME
2017: 23 catches, 267 yards, one touchdown in four games
2016: 23 catches, 243 yards, four touchdowns in 12 games
Edelman not being on the field has surely had a hand in such an outcome. Edelman was the recipient of 159 pass attempts, 98 receptions, 1,106 yards and three touchdowns just a go-round ago, and such a volume does have to be dispersed elsewhere. But Amendola’s had a heavy hand in what he’s gathered, too. He already had his independent value carved out; it’s just been expounded upon.
As offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said in NFL Films’ “Do Your Job Part 2,” the 5-foot-11, 190-pound veteran is, in the kindest of ways, New England’s best “trash” receiver and runner.
Amendola’s work in close quarters, and with the punt team set to step on, has reflected the title well. In a given route he can be a sudden cover, a sure throw and a sturdy tackle. And Tom Brady confirmed those trusted qualities long before he stepped to the lectern for his postgame press conference on Thursday night.
Brady looked Amendola’s way a penalty-excluding total of eight times against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No. 12 and No. 80 connected on all eight occasions and for 77 yards, with three transpiring on third down in what was a 19-14 Patriots victory at Raymond James Stadium.
The show went on without tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was a late scratch due to a thigh contusion, but was nonetheless a reflection of the Patriots quarterback knowing where to go to butter the bread.
“Danny played great,” Brady told reporters afterwards, via Patriots.com. “He always does. He’s just – he’s had such a great year and I’m just so proud of him. He’s so tough. Got such a great group of teammates, and Danny’s someone I’ve just loved playing with.”
Amendola, who also dialed up a 40-yard punt return versus Tampa Bay, was there for 26 percent of Brady’s completions and 25 percent of his yards. In result, the 10-year pro is currently on track for 86 catches, 1,001 yards and three to four touchdowns should he appear in all remaining games on the Patriots’ slate.
Catches: 85 in 2010
Receptions: 689 in 2010
Touchdowns: four in 2016
Amendola’s career-best in receptions and yards took place in 2010 with the then-St. Louis Rams, when he had 85 for 689. His high point in touchdowns, meanwhile, took place last season when he caught a pair from Jimmy Garoppolo and a pair from Brady.
He had 11 grabs for 130 yards and two scores at this time last year. This year is a little different circumstance.
But Amendola has earned his moment regardless of what’s led him to it.