Without Julian Edelman, the New England Patriots have turned to veteran Danny Amendola in the slot and he’s been extremely reliable through the first five weeks.
However, while the Patriots offense looks capable of surviving with this arrangement, it does expose them to a new challenge. They need to manage Amendola’s workload to make sure that they can keep him healthy and on the field when it truly matters.
Amendola already missed a Week 2 victory over the New Orleans Saints, but has shown well around that injury with 6 catches and 100 yards before getting hurt in the opener and then 8 catches on 8 targets for 77 yards in last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In that Week 5 matchup, Amendola played in 55 snaps. It was the largest number of snaps he’s taken in a game since 2015.
Amendola has only played in a full 16-game slate twice in his nine-year NFL career. And in each of the last two seasons, he’s missed time during the last month of the season, which is a sign of him wearing down over the course of the year.
This season, he’ll be playing 50 or more snaps a game regularly. So finding space to get him a breather regularly is going to be critical to making sure he holds up over the final 11 weeks.
He should be one of the first off the field in blowout situations (good or bad) and they’ll need to use the versatility of their running backs to get him off the field when they can. It may even mean sitting him late in the season if it looks like the Patriots are locked into their playoff position.
However it has to happen, it has to happen. Because while the Patriots have the depth to mask having lost Edelman, but they don’t have the depth to mask not having both Edelman and Amendola when it matters.
Their ability to create mismatches outside, inside, at running back and at tight end require the reliability that either Edelman or Amendola provide in the slot. So keeping him healthy over the rest of the season will be incredibly important, albeit challenging.
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