Malcolm Mitchell

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."
 

Friday Bag: Malcolm's in the middle of a confidence crisis

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Friday Bag: Malcolm's in the middle of a confidence crisis

FOXBORO -- Every Friday we take your Patriots questions on Twitter and answer them as a joint mailbag -- or a Friday Bag, as they call it. 

Got questions? Tweet the guys using the hashtag #FridayBag. But for now, have at the Patriots vs. Patriots South edition of the Bag . . .

Pete! What I see is a player who’s playing equal to -- if not better -- than the guy on the other side, Stephon Gilmore. I see the same passion I’ve always seen. I’ve seen the same willingness to stick his nose up in there on running plays. I see the same quickness. What’s missing may just be confidence. I think Malcolm lost it somewhere during the course of training camp -- I think it was that week in West Virginia with the Texans -- and he’s still struggling to get it back. He said all the right things yesterday. He’ll get plenty of snaps Sunday. Let’s see what it looks like.

Hey, Chris. Thanks for chipping in. My thoughts on Wise are well-documented, so in response to your question? What do I think that teams are game-planning around him? Smart. It's a small sample, but he already has seven total quarterback pressures (two sacks, four more quarterback hits, one hurry), which is one more than Clay Matthews, the same number as Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, and one fewer than Oakland's Khalil Mack. He's not at the level of those players yet, but if you're a coach and you're ignoring that kind of production through a couple of games . . . that's on you. I think his length, the leverage he uses as a pass-rusher and his relentlessness should only continue to lead to more results. It looks to me that the Patriots have found a solid No. 2 to pair with Trey Flowers. Somewhere, Arkansas coach Brett Bielema is smiling.

Dave. Davey. David. Little premature, no? Solder missed all of the preseason, so the way I look at his play now is just that: It’s the preseason. He’s going to have to adjust to the speed and he’s going to have to make modifications to his technique. If this is still going on in a couple weeks, then the Pats may have a problem. It’s just too soon for me to go there now. 



Unless the Seahawks fall out of contention, I'd find it really hard to believe that they'd deal Graham during the season -- especially to another contender. Never say never with the Patriots, but the base salary ($7.9 million) and the cap hit ($10 million) also seem like non-starters to me. Then there's the scheme fit. Graham's talented, no doubt. But he might have to be used in more of a receiver role here in New England. He's improved as a blocker, but he still seems to fit the profile of a big wideout than a true tight end.

Vincent, the kid wants to play. I’d like to see him play. 



I'm still going wide receiver, John. I think Rob Gronkowski will lead the team in touchdown receptions by season's end, but I'm not sure he gets much help adding to that number from his fellow tight ends. Between Cooks, Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Amendola (who has been used extensively in the red zone the last few years) and Malcolm Mitchell if/when he returns, that group should still lead the pack.

Jacob, they should. It’s a no-brainer. We talked about it all summer, even after the Edelman injury. But then what did they do Week 1? The only sense it made was that Amendola was the one player creating real separation that night, but too bad. Come up with a better plan. Create more opportunities for the backs. That’s what they did in New Orleans. Hopefully they’ve learned their listen. Save that guy for January.



It's still very early in Dorsett's Patriots career, obviously, so I think it's hard to try to extrapolate what he's done in two weeks and say, "THIS is who he is." However, in my time talking to him since he's arrived, I'll say that he's struck me as someone who has worked diligently off the field to make sure he's up on everything he needs to be up on. Living at a hotel. Nose in the playbook. His best fit in this offense would seem to be in a Cooksian role, at the "X." He and Brandin Cooks are very similar in terms of their body types and athletic skill sets. I was interested to hear Tony Romo's take during the Saints game, when he said he thinks Dorsett might have a little more "wiggle" than Cooks. Maybe that leads to more work in the slot, where short-area quickness is paramount, but right now he looks like an outside-the-numbers guy with the ability to be a little bit of a gadget player -- jet-sweeps, some work out of the backfield -- due to his speed.

Yes, I do. It would appear as if that troublesome knee, one that gave him trouble back in college, is going to remain an issue for Mitchell as a professional. They could use him going forward. He works the boundary better than any player on the roster.



The Patriots could try to go heavy and run the ball. If Cameron Fleming is out there at right tackle, that would make sense as he looks to me like a superior run-blocker than pass-blocker. However, I think the plan is going to be similar to the one they used in last year's divisional round. I anticipate the Texans will load up the short-to-intermediate range of the field with defenders and force the Patriots to go outside and deep. It won't look pretty, but the Patriots will take what they're given. Expect a bunch of targets for Cooks, Dorsett, and possibly Gronkowski outside the numbers. Brady had a rough day against Houston in January, but was able to pick up yards with chunk plays and I think he'll have to do the same again this weekend.

See the above, Steven! And if you're interested in a little more detail about why this Texans defense is such a difficult matchup for the Patriots, both Tom E. and I have you covered. Curran wrote about why the Texans have the "blueprint" to make life tough on the Patriots. I took an in-depth look at one of Houston's toughest defensive packages, which we should see plenty on third down. 

I’d rather freeze my nuts off, Gary.

Malcolm Mitchell headed to IR; Ted Karras promoted from practice squad

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Malcolm Mitchell headed to IR; Ted Karras promoted from practice squad

FOXBORO -- As the Patriots got ready to take the field for their season-opener, Malcolm Mitchell was placed on ice. For a while, at least. 

According to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, the team is placing the second-year receiver on injured reserve. Mitchell has been dealing with a knee injury and was questionable for Thursday's game. Mitchell missed much of training camp as he managed his knee, and during the team's second preseason game in Houston he re-aggravated it when he collided with tight end James O'Shaughnessy. 

Players no longer need to be given a return designation in order to make them eligible to play again later this season. Should the team determine that Mitchell's injury is not season-ending, he could return to practice in six weeks and return to game action in eight weeks. 

Mitchell's injury makes the acquisition of Phillip Dorsett earlier this week that much more important. Though Dorsett isn't expected to contribute much early in his Patriots tenure, the former first-rounder could end up as the team's No. 4 receiver behind Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. 

Taking Mitchell's place on the 53-man roster will be offensive lineman Ted Karras. The second-year interior offensive lineman was released as the team cut its roster down to 53 players last weekend and signed to the practice squad soon thereafter.