Has Danny Amendola Found His Niche with the 2014 New England Patriots?

Danny Amendola started his career in New England with a clutch 10-catch performance against the Buffalo Bills last season. After enduring groin and head injuries along with the doubt of an entire region over the last 13 months, Amendola may have come full circle.

Four solid kickoff returns, a timely 19-yard touchdown catch and a game-saving onside kick recovery have Amendola‘s arrow pointing up again in New England after a 27-25 win over the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football. Speaking with reporters after the game, Amendola was nonchalant about the whole situation:

We came out on top and that’s what I’m most excited about. I’ve caught a lot of balls in a game and lost. I’ve caught a lot of balls in a game and won. I’ve caught zero balls in a game and won and zero balls in a game and lost. No matter what, to come out on top is most important. That’s when everybody is happiest and that’s when we grow as a team. We’re all excited. Good win for us.

With Brandon LaFell and Tim Wright emerging as realistic threats, Amendola‘s workload had lightened to the point where the Patriots coaching staff felt comfortable using him on kickoffs. He ended up returning four kicks for 105 yards, providing a spark to the crowd and the offense with improved—albeit slightly—starting field positions.

Amendola‘s ability to make it past the first wave with relative ease could easily result in an even longer return than this 31-yard return near the end of the first half against the Jets.

Amendola encounters the first wave of defenders at the 12-yard line after catching the ball five yards deep in the end zone. He makes himself insanely skinny through the hole and would have been off to the races with one more block. Pat Chung gets tackled at the 15-yard line at best and probably would have taken the touchback.

Although Amendola only saw three targets in the game, the last one was of huge importance. On 3rd-and-goal from the 19-yard line, Tom Brady would find Amendola for what would prove to be the game-winning score.

Despite not seeing the ball much this year, Amendola didn’t seem discouraged. He kept working on the play and was rewarded with the ball. His instincts and determination could end up being the difference between a playoff berth for New England and an early golf date.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels praised Amendola‘s smarts on the play:

Danny was the short guy. And again, you have two choices, you could either kind of try to get away from your guy going towards the direction the quarterback is rolling to or running, or in the case of what Danny did, he turned and went in the other direction because he was a short receiver that ended up turning his route into a deeper play.

[…]

I thought Danny did a great job – we had a couple guys do a really good job on that play – and Danny ended up with the ball on it. 

Perhaps Amendola‘s niche isn’t to fill Wes Welker‘s role. Perhaps he is an amalgamation of a few Patriots from yesteryear. Part Bethel Johnson on kick returns. Part David Patten or David Givens with their clutch catches. Part Troy Brown with his work ethic, leadership and dogged determination.

No matter whose role he fills, look for Amendola to continue contributing to New England’s success.

 

Stats and figures courtesy of Patriots.com.