Wes Welker and Danny Amendola are a lot alike. They both went to Texas Tech; they both went undrafted; they are both slot receivers; they both tore ACLs, and when Welker departed in the offseason for the Denver Broncos, Amendola was the guy to put up numbers identical to the two-time all-Pro. At least that is what the New England Patriots were feeding their fan base.
In Week 1, the perception came to fruition. Both Welker and Amendola put up stats that stood out on the box score; Welker hauling in nine catches for 67 yards and two scores in his first game, with Peyton Manning and Amendola grabbing 10 Tom Brady passes for 104 yards in a 23-21 at the Buffalo Bills. Without that 10-for-104 performance, the Patriots certainly would have lost the opener and Amendola certainly looked to be on pace for 100-plus receptions, just like his slot-man predecessor Welker did in five of six seasons in Foxborough.
But then an all too familiar foe hit New England’s big free agent acquisition. Amendola missed four of the next six games due to a groin injury, making 2013 the fourth time in five NFL seasons he missed a game. After such a promising beginning to his tenure in New England, Amendola hit the sidelines. In turn, Patriots fans went to town criticizing Bill Belichick for letting Welker walk.
Once Amendola returned to the lineup in Week 5, his injury-prone reputation grew bigger and bigger and his sterling Week 1 effort was a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Welker continued his torrent pace in Denver, catching touchdowns in his first six games and racking up 73 catches in his first 13 games. Then Welker went down for four games after a string of concussions, an outcome that seemed destined to happen due to his relentlessness over the middle.
The reversal of fortune meant Amendola had the chance to catch up to Welker in terms of statistics, but while he was out with the groin issues, Julian Edelman became the modern Welker, Brady’s newly prized target. Surprisingly, by season’s end, Amendola had played in 12 games, just one shy of the franchise’s best wide receiver for which he replaced in 2013.
The thing was Amendola was not close to Welker in terms of production. Welker caught at least five balls on 10 occasions, compared to Amendola, who only topped the five-count four times. Amendola did average more receiving yards (11.7 yards/catch versus Welker’s 10.7), but fell way short in terms of receptions (54 to 73). Although the largest factor was Amendola’s lack for getting into the endzone. By the time Amendola finally caught a touchdown in Week 9, Welker already had nine to his own name.
So in the end, yes, Welker was really that much better than replacement Amendola in 2013. However, do not be caught off guard if Amendola puts up stronger numbers in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game, or even next season when Edelman and his career-high 105 catches possibly move the free agent-to-be to another franchise. If history has shown us anything, Brady still needs a slot guy to step up and grab somewhere around a century’s marks worth of catches.