Looking back, it’s hard not to make the case that the Patriots don’t win the Super Bowl without Danny Amendola. (USA TODAY Images)
The Patriots have some interesting personnel moves to make this offseason and for the first time in a while the wide receiver position is no longer as big of a priority as it’s been in past years.
New England got some terrific production for the second straight year from Julian Edelman, who once again went out and put up some impressive numbers. Â Edelman caught 92 passes for 972 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season in 2014, missing the thousand yard mark primarily because he was a healthy scratch during the final game while the team rested some of their key players. Â Newly acquired Brandon LaFell started off slow but ultimately settled in and became a key possession receiver for the Patriots, hauling in 74 passes and 50 first downs along with seven touchdowns. Â He also had the second-longest reception of the season, which was a 56 yard fourth quarter touchdown against the Bills in Week 6.
Meanwhile, Danny Amendola was also a player who while he didn’t have a big regular season was big in the playoffs, finishing with 11 catches for 137 yards. Â He also ended up withÂ the team lead in touchdowns with Rob Gronkowski with 3.
Amendola’s a player who although things haven’t gone quite his way ended up being an important piece of the Patriots championship season. Â He signed a five year, $31 million deal back on March 14, 2013, but production-wise he caught 54 passes in 2013 and then saw his playing time diminish this season while catching just 27.
But during the year Amendola stepped up and became a big contributor on special teams, returning 20 kickoffs for 482 yards and averaging 24.1 yards per return. Â His postseason performance was ultimately one of the bigger stories because he did what hadn’t been done by an aging Deion Branch back in 2012 and Donte Stallworth in 2007, which was be able to consistently win one-on-one match-ups and get open during the playoffs. Â His fourth quarter touchdown helped erase a 10 point deficit against the Seahawks and at the time pulled the Patriots to within three points at 24-21, while Julian Edelman caught a scoring strike one possession later that ended up being the game-winner.
However, while the Patriots didn’t get their money’s worth out of Amendola during his first two regular seasons, they got exactly what they needed from him in the playoffs this year and it’s hard not to make the argument that without him, they may not have won their fourth championship. Â Granted his salary will likely be a topic of discussion but as our resident cap expert, Miguel Benzan, points out, it’s far more cap-friendly to reduce Amendola’s salary than it is to release him.
With a lower salary and his familiarity with the system Amendola already provides more than a free agent or a draft pick having become a viable threat offensively. Â Granted he’s not in the higher-tier of the depth chart given where Edelman and LaFell come into play, but he’s good enough to give them depth and gives them a viable kick-returner. Â The bigger question will likely be who takes over the fourth receiving slot next season, which will potentiallyÂ be a battle between third-year player Aaron Dobson and whoever else they potentially bring in this offseason.
But for now if Amendola accepts the fact that he’s finally carved out a role with this team, even though he’s not “the guy” and will have to adjust his salary to reflect that, he’ll be headed into 2015 with an opportunity to get back to where he was before being signed here. After all, as much as fans praised Wes Welker for what he did in the regular season, the knock on Welker will be the plays he didn’t make in the postseason that cost the Patriots an opportunity to potentially win a couple additional titles. Amendola made them, and that’s about all Patriots fans could have hoped for.
“Hard work pays off,” said Amendola after the team won it all just one month ago. “All the work pays off.”
That it did, and although he wasn’t perfect, it paid off enough to win a Super Bowl.
DOBSON HARD AT WORK FOR 2015:
Speaking of the wide receiver position, Aaron Dobson has quietly been hard at work behind the scenes to try and rebound from what has been a frustrating year for the former standout from Marshall.
Dobson suffered aÂ broken bone in hisÂ foot at the end of the 2013 that didn’t heal properly and offseason surgery last March forced him to miss the ensuing minicamps as well as the first two weeks of training camp. Â He was never able to get completely healthy and an injured hamstring in Week 13 on a deep route against Green Bay ended what was obviously a frustrating season for him, and he was a spectator as the team went on to win a championship.
According to the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe Dobson seems motivated heading into this season, spending his time at Fischer Institute in Pheonix. Â It’s a facility where some big names have hosted players in past years, including fellow Patriots Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty, while other NFL players this year reportedly include quarterback Carson Palmer.
Brett Fischer, who runs the facility, told the Herald that Dobson is “hungry” and has been doing all the right things.
â€śHe is doing great,â€ť Fischer said. â€śIâ€™m really excited for him. He has put the time and effort into it, comes in early, gets all his work in and he is hungry. There are a few specific things we found, minor little things weâ€™re working on, that make his program a little bit unique to everybody elseâ€™s. Nothing major.
â€śItâ€™s a matter of him developing some areas that were just a little weak and get him back on the field.â€ť
Dobson was a pretty dynamic player in college and is a player that at 6’3″ potentially gives New England a taller threat in their offense. Â He kicked off his rookie season with a 39-yard touchdown to start his NFL career, and finished with the longest reception for the Patriots that season, which was an 81-yard touchdown against the Steelers in Week 9.
Needless to say the potential is there, now he just needs to get back out there. Â Hopefully if he does, the Patriots could have a pretty formidable group once again next season.
Lost in the mix after his massive performance against the Colts in 2014 was Jonas Gray who went from hero to zero and became irrelevant after oversleeping just in time for the team to grab LeGarrette Blount after the veteran was released by Pittsburgh. Â That transaction left Gray as nothing more than a spectator for muchÂ of the regular season, costing him an opportunity to capitalize on Stevan Ridley’s season-ending knee injury. Â He finished the regular season as the team’s leading rusher with 89 carries for 412 yards, 201 of which came in the game against Indianapolis that will hopefully not be the only game he’s remembered for.
Gray told the Herald that this season was a learning experience for him. Â â€śIâ€™ve learned a lot,â€ť Gray told the newspaper. â€śAs a pro, you go through things in an NFL season that you wouldnâ€™t have the year before, Look at Tom (Brady). He never thought heâ€™d be talking about his job security in Week 4 of the season. So you go through things as a pro, you learn from them, you experience it, and you do absolutely everything in your power to make sure it doesnâ€™t happen again. At the end of the day, thatâ€™s all you can do.â€ť …
Today ends the two-week period teams are allowed to designate a player with either the franchise tag or transition tag, which will likely result in something happening as the day goes on. Â At this point Devin McCourty and Stephen Gostkowski are two players who are about to become free agents and it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out and it could be somewhat telling about how the negotiations are going.
McCourty has already called the franchise tag “player-friendly” and something he doesn’t have an issue with, but if the designation is given to Gostkowski it could obviously be a big indication about how the negotiations are going. Â The tough part is, given how sometimes things break down, the franchise tag is sometimes used to extend negotiations to hammer out a deal much like we’ve seen with Vince Wilfork and even going back to when they did it to get a deal done with Adam Vinatieri way back when. Â But either way it’s going to be critical to lock up either Darrelle Revis or McCourty, although as has been mentioned in this space, both are a big key to this team’s success moving forward. …
The Patriots auditioned 300 cheerleaders over the weekend as they try and put together a group that will fill the 28 allotted spots for next season. Â It’s a part time job that sees many of women who are still in school or are recent college graduates and many of them came a long way for this year’s tryouts. Â At the end of this week’s audition judges will narrow the field to 40, who will then be invited back in two weeks for the next round of cuts. …
And finally, Rob Gronkowski was spotted with his brothers in Las Vegas over the weekend (pictured), spending some time at the Wynn Las Vegas’ club calledÂ Andrea’s. Â Apparently Gronk spiked the cake on his brother Chris’ head. Â Good times.