Patriots

Tom Brady shares heartfelt message for ex-Patriots teammate Danny Amendola

Tom Brady shares heartfelt message for ex-Patriots teammate Danny Amendola

Tom Brady and Danny Amendola no longer are teammates, but the bromance lives on.

After the Patriots wrapped up their joint practices with the Lions on Wednesday, Brady took to Instagram to shout out his former wide receiver.

"11 years @dannyamendola! So proud of you! Undrafted to Super Bowl champion and still proving them all wrong!!!"

Brady's message followed Amendola's praise for his ex-quarterback earlier in the day, when he said Brady "could play forever." The respect clearly remains strong between the duo that connected for 272 completions, 2,893 yards, and 15 touchdowns during Amendola's five-year stint in New England.

After spending 2018 in Miami, Amendola signed a one-year deal with the Lions in March. The 33-year-old tallied 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown last season.

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Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Every week during the NFL season, Tom E. Curran & Phil Perry will go head-to-head and offer their own takes on a Patriots or NFL-related question. This week, they debate a couple of quarterbacks' long-term futures, the Eagles' Carson Wentz vs. the Ravens' Lamar Jackson

Would you rather have Carson Wentz or Lamar Jackson as your QB through 2025?

Here's why taking Lamar Jackson here makes sense. 

First, he's as dynamic a threat as we've seen at the position in a long time. And he's better than we expected him to be. "We" meaning me, you, the 31 NFL teams who didn't draft him and the Ravens. 

Remember, Baltimore loved him so much that they passed on the opportunity to draft Jackson THREE TIMES before selecting him at the end of the first round last year. They traded down twice and then took Hayden Hurst at No. 25 before finally taking their quarterback of the future at No. 32. 

ESPN producer Paul Hembekides pointed out on Twitter that through 16 games, Jackson has more wins (13) than Patrick Mahomes did in his first 16 (12), more rush yards (1,258) than LaDainian Tomlinson (1,236), more yards per pass attempt (7.6) than Aaron Rodgers (7.5), a better completion percentage (63 percent) than Drew Brees (61 percent) and a better passer rating (94.4) than Tom Brady (90.1). So there's that. 

Second, Jackson is on an inexpensive rookie contract that could carry him through 2022. That allows me (since I'm running this team through 2025) to load up my roster with proven, more expensive pieces to try to get to a Super Bowl for each of the next several seasons. By comparison, Carson Wentz's contract has the fifth-highest average annual value in the NFL. 

It can be hard to maintain a talented roster with a $32 million quarterback on the payroll. (Just ask the Eagles.) Give me a little more financial room for error with the guy I don't have to pay until the last three years of this make-believe scenario. 

The drawbacks to taking Jackson here are obvious: a) He's a running quarterback who might have a hard time making it to 2025 unscathed and b) my team might have to run a unique offense with unique personnel for Jackson's skills to be accentuated. The first part I'm a little worried about. 

Odds are that at some point he'll get hurt, though he hasn't missed a game as a pro and he played 38 games in three years at Louisville. The second part doesn't bother me. I'll hire Greg Roman to be my offensive coordinator, continuously draft offensive linemen in the first round, and surround Jackson with blocking tight ends and fast receivers who track deep balls well. Easy. 

Jackson might not get to 2025 as one of the best in the game, but for a few years, I'll have an incredibly dynamic threat on a cheap rookie deal and multiple realistic shots at the Super Bowl. And I'll be built to exploit every defense that's been designed to stop high-powered passing games. 

With Wentz, you have to hope he's one of the best quarterbacks in football and able to elevate the talent around him to make them a championship contender. I'm not sure that's who he is, even though that's how he's being paid. And he comes with injury concerns of his own. 

Remind me again which of the two quarterbacks we're discussing has missed games because he got hurt while scrambling? Jackson's the choice. 

“Hi, what’s on special today? Ohhhh, Lamar Jackson? Exciting! Sounds different! I’ll take one.”

And that’s where we are as we enter the 11th week of the 2019 NFL season. Lamar Jackson is the man who will revolutionize the quarterback position. He’s the wave of the future (I swear to baby Jesus, I thought No Look Patty Mahomes was the wave of the future but … things move fast). Jackson’s going to run for miles and miles, dead-legging, spinning and jump-cutting through defenses and come out just fine. Never mind that he’s built like Flat Stanley.

He’s going to throw for a billion. The man with a thousand release points might smash one off the back of a teammate’s helmet, a down marker or Marcia Brady’s nose at any given moment but it’s those really pretty rainbows he throws that nestle gently against the cuddling receiver arms like a sweet, sweet newborn that keeps you coming back for more.

Have you seen his stats through 16 games? Yes. Yes I have. Phil related them and others have as well. Impressive. But do you know what you’ll miss if you don’t read the fine print? Those are the cumulative stats from Jackson’s 16 regular-season starts. Missing? The most important game Jackson’s ever played in. His lone playoff game. That was against the Chargers, where Jackson went 2 for 8 for 17 yards in the first half. The Ravens couldn’t move the ball, fell behind 12-0 by the break (then 23-3) and Jackson wound up taking seven sacks and finishing the day 14 for 29 for 194.

Even though Jackson is my No. 2 for MVP right now and is the wind beneath the wings of the entire Ravens team and has poise out the wazoo and has none of the rabbit-eared diva traits Baker Mayfield has shown, I just don’t think his act is sustainable at this level.

For my team through 2025, I’ll take Carson Wentz’ top-tier arm talent and better-than-decent legs over Jackson’s hot-right-now throwing and almost unprecedented ability as a runner.

Wentz was in 2017 where Jackson is right now: MVP candidate in his second year, at the head of the class among the next wave of quarterbacks. After starting every game as a rookie (he didn’t get the apprenticeship Jackson did with the Ravens), Went led the Eagles to an 11-2 start throwing 33 touchdowns and seven picks before blowing his ACL.

Last season, coming off the ACL and going back in as the starter in Week 3, Wentz was again very good even if the Eagles defense was not (this is where I ignore the fact he didn’t finish 2018 healthy either).

Into this year, the simple stats say Wentz has been “meh.” The stats lie as our buddy Steve Palazzolo from Pro Football Focus pointed out after Wentz's performance over the first four games. Wentz was the best passer in the NFL. However, he was tethered to receivers who, brilliant as they were on a February day in Minnesota back in 2018, couldn’t catch a cold.

Wentz’ game has changed. Defenses adapted to him a bit, as ESPN’s Tim McManus wrote this week.

"There's usually a spy, someone that's kind of keying the quarterback," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said this week. "The type of blitzes that teams [are using]. He's a right-handed quarterback, so a lot of times they don't want to let you escape to your hand side or your right, they might pressure you to the back side. There are all kind of ways that they can affect your quarterback and particularly Carson, but one of the things he's great at and has done a really good job this year of is just getting the ball out, understanding our offense better, spreading the ball around."

In short, what the 26-year-old Wentz is going through now — and has gone through — is what awaits Jackson. Will Jackson be able to zag when defenses fully devote themselves to eliminating his zig?

I have my reservations. Wentz isn’t as much fun as Jackson. But he’s more sustainable.

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Matt Cassel: How N'Keal Harry can get up to speed with Tom Brady, Patriots

Matt Cassel: How N'Keal Harry can get up to speed with Tom Brady, Patriots

N'Keal Harry obviously has a skill set and can play. There’s no doubt about that.

But if you don't get any reps and just show up on game day and say "I’m ready to play," it’s hard for Tom Brady to know what you do well.

There's body lean: When he has leverage on somebody, how does he like to come out of his breaks?

Then there's the timing patterns and understanding body language: When he’s putting that foot in the ground and coming out of it, how are you throwing that? 

Some of it is timing, other things are depth recognition, and then it's reading a wide receiver's body language and understanding what he does best.

You can watch as much film as you want in college, but it’s a different scheme. To actually do it on the field, do it in practice and get better at it: that gives everybody confidence.

Every rookie wide receiver is challenged mentally and physically. A lot of them are more role players in their first year and kind of ease into it.

And the main reason is, when you’re not completely confident in what you’re going to do, then you play slow. You don’t play to your actual speed and what your abilities should be. You’re thinking too much on those plays rather than just going out and letting your skill set take over.

That’s the beauty of the New England offense: They are going to say, “What are this kid’s strengths? ... Which routes does he run really well, and how can we get the most out of this guy?"

That's why the biggest thing with N'Keal is his knowledge of the playbook and understanding what they’re asking him to do.

Josh McDaniels is one of the best – if not the best – offensive coordinators in the league. And he’s going to put that kid in the best position to be successful when he does step on the field.

They’re not going to do things that he’s not good at. That’s the beauty of the New England offense: They are going to say, “What are this kid’s strengths? How can he help us this week? Which routes does he run really well, and how can we get the most out of this guy?"

And they’re going to utilize him in that role, whether it’s inside or outside, double moves or comeback routes – whatever he does well, they’re going to emphasize those routes and put him in a position to be successful.

For example: if N’Keal plays this week and you put him in the slot, that might be a great opportunity to throw the inside fade route against a smaller nickel back in the red zone, because he's a bigger guy and can go up and get the ball.

Tom also takes an unbelievably detailed approach with his wide receivers.

Throughout my entire time in New England, he would bring in just the receivers on the Saturday before a game, and he would have specific notes for each individual player.

He would highlight certain routes and say things like, "Hey, remind yourself to get your depth on this, because it’s a longer-developing play.”

He knew where his receivers were going to be on each specific play and laid out exactly the types of things he wanted to see.

That's why N'Keal will need to grasp the "why" of this offense and understand the route concepts he'll have to know and be accountable for.

There are a lot of nuances within this offensive scheme you have to be on top of to earn the trust of your quarterback and your teammates. There are a lot of motions, double cadences and different formations they use try to take advantage of the defense.

In the end, it comes down to each individual player: How much can you put on this guy before he overloads?

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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