The Detroit Lions stuck to their brand for their first signing of the 2019 NFL free agent tampering period. They inked slot receiver Danny Amendola to a one year deal worth just under $4.5 million. Amendola is another former New England Patriot that will be reunited with Lions head coach Matt Patricia.
Amendola started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent in 2008, first signed by the Dallas Cowboys. He made his first active roster a year later in 2009 with the St. Louis Rams. The receiver proved to be a reliable target for the Rams until 2012, when he signed with New England. He would win two Super Bowls in Foxborough before leaving for the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
He caught 59 passes for 575 yards and a touchdown in his lone year as a Dolphin. Amendola has caught 485 passes for 4,684 yards and 20 touchdowns in the 126 NFL games he has played over his 10-year career.
Despite having played 10 years in the league, the receiver has still proven that he can be a threat in an NFL offense.
Amendola’s greatest traits coming out of the slot are his quickness and agility. He stops and starts on a dime and can cover short spaces faster than anyone. The receiver is dangerous on shorter routes as well. He stems his routes nicely and has quick feet that make it hard for defensive backs to keep up with him. This play against the Green Bay Packers is a good example:
The receiver is lined up in the slot on this play. He makes a double move at the line and instantly gets a step on his man on a route over the middle. Once the corner catches up, he head fakes again before breaking his route towards the sideline. The quarterback got the ball away a little quickly, but had he not, Amendola would have been wide open.
He cuts up man coverage on quick ins, quick outs, quick curls and flare routes. Amendola manages to get creative on even the simplest of routes, and he gives even the best of nickel corners all they can handle.
The receiver does lack long speed, though, and this hurts him when he is trying to run routes further downfield. His ability to beat corners in short spaces can help him get a step on the man covering him, but unless he gets the ball almost immediately, the corner will usually be able to quickly recover.
Amendola makes another double move at the line of scrimmage here and earns himself a step. As he takes off on a go route, the corner catches up almost immediately and smothers him in coverage.
Amendola is a very smart player and it shows when he’s faced with zone coverage. He has a great understanding of how the defense will respond to what his fellow receivers will run and finds small spaces in their zone. He is an expert at finding and exploiting soft spots and running his route perfectly to place himself within them.
He is a high-IQ player that has great awareness of the field around him. The former Dolphins receiver is great at going off of script and adjusting in an instant when he needs to.
On this play against the Lions, Amendola is running a flare route. He realizes that Detroit’s zone coverage has left him a lot of space underneath and that the opposite flat is open to be exploited. The receiver flattens his route to catch a shallow pass. With tons of space in front of him, he quickly gets to the flat and runs for a first down after the catch.
One thing that becomes immediately obvious about Amendola when watching him on film is his small frame. The receiver measures in at only 5-foot-11 and 190 lbs. and is usually one of the smallest guys on the field. That does not stop him from making some great catches, though.
Amendola has a great vertical and can get up high to snag an overthrown pass. He also has great concentration and body control, allowing him to perfectly high point balls to maximize his small frame, and come down with both feet in bounds.
This play against the Lions may have been his most impressive of 2018:
The first thing that jumps out when watching this play is the absolutely amazing throw Brock Osweiler makes on the run. The ball is placed perfectly, just out of reach of the Lions defender and into the smallest of windows in the Lions defense—a Stafford window, as some might say.
Amendola still had a lot of work to do. He needed to track the ball through a web of defenders and then reach out to make an athletic grab. He’s able to make the play, though, and come down with a great touchdown grab.
He can also make great grabs near the sideline:
Osweiler’s throw on the run is less than spectacular this time around. The quarterback tries to find a wide open Amendola while rolling to his right, but overthrows the pass.
Amendola tracks it well, though, and is able to leap up, grab the pass and then get back down with both feet inbounds for a decent gain.
There are some obvious downsides to his small size, though. Amendola will never be able to catch balls just over the head of defenders the way that both Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay can. He cannot attack passes well either if there is a defender between him and the ball.
His small frame also makes him a liability when he is forced into a blocking role. The Dolphins threw a lot of screens to the likes of Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills last season. Amendola would often be used as a blocker on these plays, and he failed to execute his assignment more often than one would like.
As a slot receiver, he would often be asked to run block as well. That rarely went well for him either.
bryce callahan had no time for danny amendola's attempt at run blocking pic.twitter.com/senAGT1cp5— lifelong caps fan (@MansurShaheen) April 4, 2019
Amendola is set to be Detroit’s top slot receiver in 2019, and that is fine. He clearly still has a lot to offer and is an upgrade in every facet over Bruce Ellington, who became the team’s top slot receiver late last season.
He provides the offense with a reliable target underneath who can can even stretch the field a bit and get open downfield. His skills against zone coverage help make up some of the weaknesses both Jones Jr. and Golladay have and they can play off of each other fairly well.
Expect Amendola to play an important role in the offense this season, especially as new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell modernizes his offense and uses the quick passing game.