Patriots

Giardi: Amendola injury presents challenges for McDaniels, Patriots

Giardi: Amendola injury presents challenges for McDaniels, Patriots

Losing Julian Edelman is like losing a fair amount of lung capacity. In previous seasons, his ability to do whatever needed to be done allowed you to breathe easier. You could bank on him and that production coming out of the slot.

Danny Amendola was supposed to be that guy back when the Patriots signed him in 2013. Turns out he’s not, but it’s hardly a critique. His durability will always be in question. He’s just not built to absorb kill shot after kill shot. However, Amendola’s a hell of a lot closer to being a key part of this Patriot team’s anatomy than say, your appendix. So it was curious to see the Pats throw caution to the wind and roll out Amendola play after play after play in Thursday night’s opener.

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Thirty-two snaps at wide receiver. Seven punt returns. No surprise to see him break. Amendola suffered a concussion.

So much for the general feeling that Amendola would be on a “pitch” count, and the Pats would monitor his playing time like they had the year prior. 
 
“Well, if a player’s cleared to play and he’s healthy, then we would, for the most part, just operate normally like any other player,” Bill Belichick said Monday when asked if a player’s past injury history would alter the manner in which he was deployed. “It might depend on the individual circumstance or situation, but I think if the player’s healthy, then we treat him like he’s healthy."
 
Earlier this summer, Amendola gushed that he felt like he was 24 years old all over again. That said, the Pats took a cautious route with the 31-year-old, holding him out of practice for a time, then not letting him be a full-go for others. Preservation seemed to be very much at the forefront of Belichick and the training staff’s mind.

Did the Edelman injury change that?  Should it have?

The answer both before Amendola’s injury and now after is the same: Hell no.

We know what the player’s body can tolerate. He’s not as sturdy as Edelman, and, let’s not forget, Edelman hasn’t been an ironman either. He missed seven games in 2015. A couple the year prior. Now he’s done before the season starts. That position chews you up and spits you out. When Wes Welker left New England, he was already cooked, no matter what the numbers in his first season in Denver say. The requisite quickness had been used up.

Amendola is still quick. He was the only reliable target Brady had in the loss to the Chiefs. A half-dozen catches for a hundred yards even. The only player who consistently beat man-to-man coverage. That’s why the Pats kept leaning on him, until he finally broke.
 
From the moment Amendola exited, the Pats offense went from slightly erratic to awful. The first offensive play went for 54 yards on that bomb to Brandin Cooks down the left sideline. After that, the Pats ran 22 plays for a grand total of 35 yards, and one of those plays went for 26 to James White. (Where did he go Thursday night?) That’s about as inefficient as a team can be, from an offense and a quarterback that are consistently the most efficient in the league. At one point, Brady flipped a deep pass down the field to Philip Dorsett, who just arrived in Foxboro days prior. Dorsett and the football were barely in the same area code. Hard to prepare for such a scenario, but it underscores the overall impact of both Edelman and Amendola.
 
“Yeah, I mean this happens or you have to be ready for it to happen each week so it’s truly not anything new,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels the day after the loss. “We've had players that have less experience that have to play and you have to adjust and still give everybody out there an opportunity that they’re comfortable doing, that they know how to do well.”
 
Based on the play calling for a better part of the night, but certainly after Amendola exited, what McDaniels decided they do well is run as fast and as far as they can go. Evolution of the offense? More vertical than horizontal? Or limitations based on time and skill-set of those that remained in the lineup.
 
“Whether we have to shrink some of the things we could or couldn’t do, that’s just part of football,” said McDaniels. “Each week whether it’s before the game starts you have injuries or inactives or whatever it might be, or during the game you have an injury that may affect something. That happens to every team every single week during the year. We have no excuses whatsoever. We didn’t play good enough. We didn’t coach good enough. It starts with me on offense. We've got to do a lot of work here to try and make progress and improve, so hopefully, we can play better next week.”

With the potential of being without Amendola Sunday in New Orleans, McDaniels will be challenged again. This is on him to find a solution. He’s got a bunch of puzzle pieces. He needs to find the right fits. And when Amendola finally does return, it’ll be on the offensive coordinator to protect the guy who was his best playmaker in Week 1 because he won’t protect himself.

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Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Gronk question now makes tight end a position of need

Before free agency kicks off, and before we dissect the top college prospects entering this year's draft, we're taking a look at the Patriots on a position-by-position basis to provide you with an offseason primer of sorts. We'll be analyzing how the Patriots performed in 2017 at the position in question, who's under contract, how badly the team needs to add talent at that spot, and how exactly Bill Belichick might go about adding that talent. Today. we're looking at a position where the Patriots have arguably the best player that’s ever manned it in his presumed prime. But tight end is suddenly a tenuous spot for New England.

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HOW THEY PERFORMED


This became – contrary to the Patriots hopes – a one-man position. Rob Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games. The rest of the tight ends – Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister and Martellus Bennett – combined for 20 catches and six of those came from Bennett who played just two games before heading to injured reserve. Gronk was – and is – the best tight end in the game and one of its most dominating offensive weapons. After losing Julian Edelman in the preseason, the Patriots offense became tremendously Gronk-reliant. They got away with it. But they clearly wanted more from Dwayne Allen than what they got or they wouldn’t have gone after Bennett when he became available.

WHO IS UNDER CONTRACT FOR 2018?
Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Martellus Bennett, Will Tye, Jacob Hollister

WHO IS NOT?
All tight ends on the roster are under contract.

HOW DIRE IS THE NEED?


Publicity grab or legitimate consideration? What exactly to make of Gronk’s reported dalliance with the WWE and his idle desire to be an action movie star (also reported)? Both have the earmarks of brand-building genius. It’s a page torn from the business plans of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard or Conor McGregor – ruminating on retirement and expressing interest in other public pursuits exponentially ratchets up public interest in both the main gig and the potential side gig. Gronk himself might not be that savvy and calculating to mildly hold the Patriots fortunes hostage but Gronk Inc. certainly is. Then again, maybe he legitimately is weighing it. The “will he or won’t he” conversation will sustain buzz and has to in some way impact the Patriots’ offseason plans. The presumption has to be that Gronk returns but this is anything but a layup. Which means the need is a Level-8

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN FREE AGENCY?


There is a nice crop of tight ends hitting the market. Virtually all of them come with the same nagging health issues that Gronk has (had). Jimmy Graham is the biggest name in the group. His tepid blocking skills may make him unattractive to the Patriots, but never let it be said the Pats don’t like to take a flier on a once-electric player who’s on the backside. At 31, Graham’s coming off a 10-touchdown season, though his yards per catch went down to 9.1. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see New England pursue. The Eagles' second tight end, Trey Burton, is 26 and stuck behind Zach Ertz. An undrafted rookie, the kid who threw the touchdown pass to Nick Foles in the Super Bowl is targeted sparingly in Philly but is a smooth player. He also plays special teams (boing!). Austin Sefarian-Jenkins finally got his stuff together with the Jets in 2017 and he’s only 25. He’s no dummy, he’s only acted like one in the past and it seems like he’s got a handle on it now. He’d need face-to-face vetting but he’s got upside. Then there’s Tyler Eifert. Still just 27, Eifert’s played in 10 games the past two seasons and had season-ending back surgery in the fall (it was performed by the same doctor who treated Gronk). He’s played 39 games in five seasons. Terrific talent. Always broken.

WHAT'S AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT?


I like this Dallas Goedert kid from South Dakota State. Also, Dalton Schultz from Stanford gets checkmarks as a blocker and competent receiver. Neither of them are first-round prospects at this point. Hayden Hurst from South Carolina and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are regarded as the top prospects. Hurst is a very good pass-catcher with a huge catch radius. He’s a 24-year-old former Pittsburgh Pirates draftee. Andrews is smooth as a receiver but not seen as a potent blocker. Same with Mike Gesicki from Penn State who’s the best athlete along with Hurst but doesn’t impress with his blocking.

HOW CAN THE PATRIOTS ADDRESS IT?


Assuming Gronk is returning, the Patriots can go at it a number of ways. There’s not a “can’t miss” prospect out there, so drafting Hurst or Gesicki in the first couple of rounds means they’ll have to live with the shortcomings or hope they can improve them. Given other needs, they may not want to spend on “maybes” near the top of the draft. Too many drafts have been like that, especially with second-rounders. It seems unlikely they’ll be really interested in counting on either Allen or Bennett to provide anything in 2018. If they take a run at the Eagles’ Burton and pay him a crapload, Gronk will lose his mind. Screw it. They should take Hurst. We will change our minds several times between now and April but that’s where we are now.

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

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Julian Edelman posts video of resistance-band training

Julian Edelman is grinding.

The New England Patriots receiver, who is recovering from an ACL repair surgery that ended his 2017 season, shared a quick video from his workout on Tuesday. Edelman is shown running with a resistance band and a trainer in-tow.

Edelman has posted a few tidbits on social media to show encouraging signs during his recovery since he got surgery in October after suffering an ACL tear in a preseason game. He was spotted around the locker room a few times during the final weeks of the 2017 season.

"Rehab is a [expletive]. It sucks," Edelman said in November on Barstool Sports' "Pardon My Take podcast." "You go in and you’re feeling decent and then you warm up, you beat it up and then you get stiff again. I mean it’s just a process and you go in six days a week and you’re going into work it, work on everything — your flexion, your extension."