Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady


Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady

FOXBORO - Noted this on Twitter, but maybe the best under-the-radar move the Patriots made this offseason was reworking Danny Amendola's contract. He has become a reliable target for Tom Brady. Trusted. That's no easy task. Ask any of the veteran receivers who came from elsewhere, tried and failed.

Amendola has also morphed into a playmaker, usually in critical moments. It was his his fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday versus the Jets that provided the go-ahead score, and his brilliant climbing the ladder catch on the following drive, that put the Pats on the Jets side of the 50 in a drive that eventually ended with Rob Gronkowski waltzing in the end zone yet another score.

I asked Gronk about the impact Amendola had. The All-Everything tight end go all wide-eyed before saying, “Amendola’s always making those crazy, acrobatic catches. He looks like a gymnast half the time...He’s super athletic. He’s that freaky athletic, where he can jump, he’s super quick, and he makes those kinds of catches, which look awesome.”

Bill Belichick couldn't hide his happiness with Amendola's performance either, which resuled in eight catches on nine targets, good for 86 yards, “Danny made some great plays, like he always does for us - big catches over the middle, big catch on the sideline."

Amendola has adhered to the Patriot Way, even when he lost his job to Julian Edelman. He spouts cliches, sometimes with a knowing grin on his face. But it's hard not to notice how much he enjoys playing, and in the postgame, I had a fun exchange with him, starting with that sideline catch that - as you just read - had everyone raving.

I said, “What's your vertical leap? Didn't see that coming out of Texas Tech."

He laughed, then said, "it's game jump. That's it."

"Okay, how do you prepare yourself for not only falling on your back like you did on that catch, but for getting smacked solidly twice on your touchdown?,” I asked. "I mean, no way that doesn't leave a mark."

"I practice every day as a hard as I can," he said, leaning on his cliches. "Offseason too. It comes down to one play on Sunday, and you know you gotta make it [Editor's note: That's what I was looking for]."

Amendola, 5-11, 188, is lean but solid, however he's not a big guy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet he often makes his living going over the middle and sacrificing his body to make catches like he did for the TD. Is it simply no fear?

With a smile, Amendola repeated those two words, "no fear," smiled again and then, no doubt, started thinking about the Dolphins, because that's what he's been coached to do. Good player. Good teammate. Good decision to bring him back, and for him to want to come back. All sides are benefiting.




Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

Second ex-Pats OT to make free-agent visit to Cowboys

The Patriots, who lost left tackle Nate Solder to the Giants last week, have a couple of his possible replacements, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle, reportedly making free-agent visits to the Dallas Cowboys.

The Fleming visit was reported Sunday. On Monday, Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported that Waddle will be joining his former Patriots teammate in Dallas.

Replacing Solder is obviously a key part of the Patriots offseason and retaining Waddle or Fleming could figure into those plans. Waddle, who turns 27 in July, was signed from the Detroit Lions in 2016 and appeared in 12 games last year, starting four. Fleming, a fourth-round Pats pick from Stamford in 2014, turns 26 in September and also played in 12 games last season, starting six.


What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively