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New England Patriots 2017 roster breakdown: #80 WR Danny Amendola

Amendola made some crucial plays last season. Will he get the chance to do it again in 2017?

Training camp is here! The NFL's most quiet period has come to an end as the New England Patriots will hold their first practice of this year's camp later today. The 88 players currently under contract will now begin to fight for spots on either the team's 53-man roster or its practice squad.

As we have done throughout the offseason, we will continue to take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots – and to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.

Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots' most experienced wide receivers.

Name: Danny Amendola

Position: Wide receiver

Jersey number: 80

Opening day age: 31

Experience: 9

Size: 5'11, 190 lbs.

2016 review: Despite coming off his most productive year as a member of the Patriots, wide receiver Danny Amendola and the team agreed to restructure his contract after the season. The newly structured deal paid the veteran the former undrafted rookie a guaranteed $1.35 million in 2016 while simultaneously guaranteeing Amendola a spot on New England's 53-man roster.

As he did throughout his tenure with the Patriots, Amendola served in a highly specialized role: Besides being used as a returnman, he also regularly saw the field as a 3rd down specialist as well as a red zone weapon. In this capacity, Amendola appeared in 12 of New England's 16 regular season games – missing the last four with a high ankle sprain – and played 266 snaps on offense (of 1,120; 23.8%) as well as 47 on special teams (of 449; 10.5%).

Statistically, Amendola's regular season did not stand out: He caught 23 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns while also returning five kickoffs for 129 yards as well as 18 punts for 121 yards. However, when put into a wider context, the stat-line – especiall on offense – no longer looks as relatively pedestrian as it does on first glance. After all, true to his usage, Amendola oftentimes kept the chains moving when targeted.

Of the 29 total passes thrown his way, 18 came on third down; showing that the Patriots' quarterbacks and coaching staff trusted the veteran in high-pressure situations. Amendola caught 14 of those targets and converted nine into first downs, two into touchdowns. He was also productive in his red zone opportunities, catching all seven of his targets resulting in four touchdowns and an additional two first downs.

Amendola's role changed slightly when he returned from his injury. He played 87 of the team's 242 offensive snaps (35.6%), sharing duties as the team's third wide receiver with rookie Malcolm Mitchell, but did not run back kicks in his four special teams snaps. Overall, his first two playoff games were relatively unspectacular as Amendola registered two catches for 12 yards as well as one run for 15 yards. However, when his team needed it the most, the veteran had arguably his best game of the season.

In Super Bowl LI, Amendola caught eight passes for 78 yards – among them a touchdown, the game-tying two-point conversion and a key fourth down conversion on the team's first touchdown drive in the third quarter. Like he did in years past, Amendola stepped up big time when the pressure was on and played a key role in securing his team a world championship.

2017 preview: As has been the case in both 2016 and 2015, the Patriots and Danny Amendola re-negotiated the wide receiver's contract during the 2017 offseason to reduce his salary cap hit. After the restructure, Amendola will now hit the team's cap with “only” $3.0 million instead of the $7.79 million he was originally scheduled to account. Naturally, this move helps his chances of making the team.

In order to do that, Amendola will have to beat out some young competitors in Austin Carr and Devin Lucien. Both bring a similar skill set to the table, are intriguing athletes and cheaper options but, as things currently stand, lack something Amendola has: a spot in quarterback Tom Brady's circle of trust. Consequently, it would be a surprise to see either one of them beat out the 31-year old.

Then again, the Patriots are known for rather moving on from a player a year early than a year late. And with Amendola entering the final year of his contract, the team might opt to pull the plug. However, unless one of the younger players at wide receiver is able to come close to provide the same level of quality, versatility and chemistry with Brady than Amendola, the incumbent appears to be safe and on New England's roster in 2017.

His upcoming season is therefore projected to look similar to his last: Amendola will be used in a specialized role on offense and special teams. He will serve as the rotational fourth wide receiver alongside Malcolm Mitchell primarily on third and fourth downs and in the red zone while also returning the occasional kickoff or punt. And chances are he will make more big plays to cement his legacy as one of the Patriots' top clutch performers.