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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Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

Patriots confirm coaching changes, front office promotions for 2020 season

The puzzle pieces of the New England Patriots' coaching staff and front office have fallen into place.

The Patriots saw turnover in both departments this offseason, as longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired while director of college scouting Monti Ossenfort joined the Houston Texans as their director of player personnel.

The club also welcomed some new faces, including former Los Angeles Rams offensive assistant Jedd Fisch (the team's new quarterbacks coach) and ex-Cleveland Browns executive Eliot Wolf.

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So, how have the coaching staff and front office changed since last season? The Patriots have unveiled their 2020 media guide, which confirmed the new roles of several staffers.

Here's a rundown of the notable changes:

- Troy Brown officially is on staff as a running backs and kick returners coach. The former Patriots wide receiver will work with head running backs coach Ivan Fears and special teams assistant Joe Houston.

- Director of pro scouting Dave Ziegler has been promoted to assistant director of player personnel, reporting to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. He'll essentially fill Ossenfort's former role.

- Tyler Hughes, who reportedly joined the team in June, is listed as an "offensive assistant." Hughes most recently was the head coach at Bountiful (Utah) High School.

- Vinnie Sunseri joins the Patriots as a defensive assistant after spending the 2019 season as a graduate assistant for Nick Saban at Alabama. Sunseri had a brief stint in New England as a player during 2016 training camp.

- Wolf's official title is "scouting consultant." He served as Cleveland's assistant general manager in 2018 and 2019 after 14 seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

The Patriots go through personnel changes every year, but 2020 presents a unique challenge: Not only has COVID-19 prevented staff members from meeting in-person, but the club has lost a lengthy list of core veterans to free agency (Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, etc.) and opt-outs (Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, etc.) this offseason.

Head coach Bill Belichick isn't one to make excuses, though, so expect his staff to be hard at work this week as the Patriots begin on-field training camp work at Gillette Stadium.

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NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Six New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (Aug. 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (Aug. 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (Aug. 2)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB CJ Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)