So much has been made about the slot receiver position, especially for the New England Patriots. The Patriots had the best slot receiver in the league in Wes Welker up until this year. Instead of bringing Welker back, they went out and spent more money to bring in Danny Amendola. Amendola is a similar but more dynamic player than Welker when healthy, but the “when healthy” part of it is key considering Welker rarely missed time in his Patriot career. Welker has moved on and Amendola is hurt, but Julian Edelman is showing that many players other than Welker can flourish as the slot receiver in the Patriots’ system.
Now at no point am I saying Amendola or Edelman are better than Welker at that position; there was such a big sample of Welker and we have only had a small sample of both Edelman and Amendola. With that said, in the two games that have been played, both players have excelled in that position and have put up great numbers. There are some keys to being successful at this position, because you can’t just throw anyone in the slot and they will produce. The receiver has to be able to run good routes and get open, but if they can do that, it seems that Tom Brady will help them be successful.
Brady and the Patriots’ system are key parts of this. It always helps to have a great QB throwing the ball, and in a system that has used the slot for years it makes Brady comfortable to throw to those players as long as they are open. The Patriots have always been a team that loves to work over the middle of the field. With their two tight end sets in previous years they throw over the middle more than most teams in the NFL.
With all the controversy that was around not starting Welker early last year and not re-signing him, maybe the Patriots were right about that position and knew that a lot of talented players can produce there. Regardless who is in that slot this year they have the chance to put up big numbers. If Amendola can stay healthy he could have a huge year and be a more dynamic player than Welker was. If it’s Edelman benefiting from playing that position in Amendola’s absence, it could look like a very smart move for Edelman who is back on a one-year deal. If he gets a lot of the snaps at that position and Brady uses him like he has used Welker in the past, Edelman could be in line for a big payday at the end of the season.