Patriots

Keeping Amendola may have been the Patriots most important offseason move

Keeping Amendola may have been the Patriots most important offseason move

FOXBORO - Is it possible that in an offseason of wheeling and dealing, the most important move the Patriots made was to keep a guy who's been on the roster since 2013? 

Potentially. That's how critical Danny Amendola has been to making the Patriots one of the most potent offenses in football. 

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Despite missing Week 2 with a concussion, Amendola is on pace for one of the best seasons of his career with 23 receptions on 27 targets for 267 yards and a touchdown in four games. He's already tied his receptions mark from 2016, and if he stays healthy he's tracking toward an 86-catch, 1,000-yard season - both would be career-highs. 

The key for Amendola is always his health -- he played in 12 games last season and he missed two in 2015 -- but with Julian Edelman out, he's become a key part of the offense. 

If he plays 15 games, and if Tom Brady looks his way at the current rate, he'd hit 100 targets for just the third time in his career. According to STATS, he's tied for second among receivers in third-down conversions (7) behind only San Diego's Keenan Allen.

Against Tampa Bay, Amendola turned in one of his best performances of the young season, catching all eight of his official targets for 77 yards. He had three more catches that were wiped out due to penalties -- one of those was his own offensive pass-interference call, but on the next play he caught one for 14 yards and a first down. It was one of five first-downs he converted in the game.

Amendola also returned three punts for 51 yards, and his 40-yard return may have gone for more had he not been run into by teammate Brandon Bolden.

"I thought Danny gave us a lot of critical plays in the game," Bill Belichick said on Friday. "He gave us punt returns, some catches and he blocked well. He had a couple of key blocks in the running game, as well, so I thought he really did a solid job for us in all the areas, in all of the things that he was asked to do, which he usually does. He's one of our best and most dependable players."

It's hard to believe that in the offseason, as the Patriots started to build up their roster, there were some who wondered if the team might actually part ways with Amendola, 31. 

The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder was never going to remain on the books at his originally-schedule base salary of $6 million, so a reduction, or a release, was inevitable. To stick with a winning organization, in a system he knows, in an area where he has family, Amendola agreed to his third reduction in salary in as many seasons. 

But even after that financial nod, there were some who wondered if he'd be kept on to play behind Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and possibly Malcolm Mitchell. 

After injuries to Edelman and Mitchell have led to an increased role for the 31-year-old, that restructure now looks like one of the wisest moves the Patriots made all offseason. 

The Brandin Cooks trade is right up there. He has come as advertised, helping the Patriots win a thriller last Sunday against the Texans with 131 yards receiving and two scores. He's played almost 90 percent of the offensive snaps. And despite a bad drop over the middle against the Bucs on Thursday night, he led the team with 85 yards receiving on five catches. 

After that? Stephon Gilmore? Dwayne Allen? Mike Gillislee? Rex Burkhead? David Harris? Lawrence Guy? Kony Ealy...? 

There's not a single offseason move that's helped the Patriots more than keeping Amendola.

"The guy, he’s a great football player and he does a lot of things well," Josh McDaniels said Friday. "He’s tough, he always makes an impact when he’s in there, he blocks hard, he gets open in the passing game, he catches the ball, he’s hard to tackle, he returns punts, makes big plays in the kicking game, he’s a great teammate. 

"There’s nothing I don’t love about Danny Amendola. Every time he’s out there, you feel good about what may happen if the ball is headed towards him, and he always comes up big in the biggest moments or biggest games. Danny’s having a very good beginning to the season, and we want to continue to try to do that."
 

Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident

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Patriots react to Ramsey's guarantee: He should be confident

FOXBORO -- Patriots players didn't seem all that bothered by Jalen Ramsey's proclamation that the Jaguars would win the AFC title game and head to Minnesota for the Super Bowl. 

"I ain't got too much to say, but y'all make sure you bring that same energy out here next week and the week after," Ramsey said in Jacksonville following his team's win in Pittsburgh. "We're going to the Super Bowl and we're going to win that (expletive). We're going to win that (expletive)."

Asked about those comments on Monday, Patriots captain Matthew Slater showed no hint of disapproval. 

"Man, that guy’s really good," Slater said. "And he should be confident, because he’s very, very good. The good Lord made that guy, and he said, ‘Let there be corner.’ And there he is. I’d be confident if I were him, as well."

Ramsey was named a First-Team All-Pro for his work on the outside opposite Second-Team All-Pro corner AJ Bouye. They make up arguably the best cornerback duo in football, and Ramsey has already established himself as one of the best at his position despite being just 23 years old and in his second pro season.

"Hey, man, Jalen Ramsey’s a good player," Patriots captain Duron Harmon said. "He talks a lot of trash. That’s part of his game, and you can’t take that away from him. He’s confident. He should be confident in his team. He has a really good football team. The top two AFC teams are left, and he’s a part of one of them.

"His approach to the game is different than ours, but we can’t knock him for it. We know they’re going to come ready to play, and we’ve just got to match their type of physicality and also just their emotion and their readiness to get ready to play."

Ramsey's best work as a trash-talker came eariler this season after he shut down Bengals wideout AJ Green. What he said about the AFC Championship was certainly a step (or several) below that in terms of its intensity, and judging by their reaction Monday, it seems to be a mere blip on the Patriots' radar.

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With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

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With McDaniels, Patricia heading out, Pats now have double the distraction potential

News about the Patriots coordinators over the past 24 hours is far from a shock.

And it’s not really news if you’ve been sticking with us over the past couple weeks.

 

(Yes, as a matter of fact, I did hurt my arm patting myself on the back…)

MORE - Pats don't need to apologize for anything

The Colts have been the preferred destination for Josh McDaniels since this started. Aside from geography, there was very little recommend the 3-13 Giants over the 9-7 Detroit Lions for Matt Patricia. Unless a chastened, meddling owner, an infant-laden locker room and a quarterback headed for the glue factory would be selling points for you, you’d go to Detroit 10 times out of 10 to stay out of that the Jints morass.

How will these acorns from the Belichick Tree fare?

It’s hard to even project. Depending on Andrew Luck’s shoulder, Indy’s either in semi-rebuild or headed for a full reboot. The Lions have the pieces in place but Patricia is in his first time around as a head coach. For a dozen years, he’s peeked over his shoulder to see if Bill Belichick approved of every on-the-record comment he’s made.

Fly free now, little bearded bird!

For both guys, it’s time. What else is left to prove in New England?

If you take a long, realistic look at the Patriots roster as they prepare for the AFC Championship – what’s the sense in sticking around until things get rocky?

The best core players are near or past 30 (Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Matt Slater, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman and Tom Brady). Two that aren’t - Donta Hightower and Rob Gronkowski – have fairly long injury histories and even if Gronk’s turned the corner, his contract is up in 2019.

Bill Belichick might be done in 12 months. He might be done in five years.

More than what’s “wrong” or insufficient in New England, though, is the simple fact of professional advancement and fulfillment. Challenge yourself. Make a bunch more money. Who knows, if you’re McDaniels, maybe you follow the same trajectory as Belichick and win five Super Bowls.

The “brain drain” can be stanched at the coordinator level by simple elevations of current assistants. Brian Flores and Chad O’Shea are the likeliest candidates. But there are other places it can flow. 

Every coach that departs a program needs lieutenants to bring with him who can pass on his vision to the team he’ll lead.

Fortunately, the GMs in Detroit and Indy – Bob Quinn and Chris Ballard – already have their economic and personnel philosophies in place. But, generally, coaches like to bring with the players who are can interpret and serve as go-betweens. 

Over his first two seasons in New England, Belichick brought aboard Anthony Pleasant, Bryan Cox, Bobby Hamilton, Roman Phifer, Antonio Langham and Otis Smith. He also brought coaches like Eric Mangini and front-office execs like Scott Pioli. 

And the outflow was what got sticky when Mangini left to coach the Jets and was perceived by Belichick to be pilfering players and coaches before he was even out of Gillette Stadium. 

Here’s a list of the Patriots who’ll be up at the end of this season. Here are the ones who’ll be up at the end of the 2018 season. Highlighting the list of guys expiring after 2019 is Brady.

You can rest assured McDaniels and Patricia are both familiar with all those names.

Before anyone goes anywhere, the 2017 Patriots have a chance to add another line to everyone’s resume. In years past, the interview process didn’t seem to hinder either man because they were both coming back. Now, with both coordinators committed to leaving, we’ll see how well the balance is struck.

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