Smart replacement for Wes Welker
For years Wes Welker has been a staple of the New England Patriots offense. He's been the one reliable weapon year in and year out for Tom Brady. Other WR's have come and gone, but Welker has been there to be Brady's security blanket. But no more, as the Patriots and Welker had an acrimonious divorce this off-season. What will Brady and the Patriots do?
They replaced Welker with someone whom many consider to be a Welker clone; Danny Amendola. The similarities in their skill sets are undeniable. Both are sure handed possession style WR's who usually don't beat you deep. However, they both have proved to be able to produce big plays on occasion. They both excel working in the slot on the underneath short/intermediate routes. While neither possesses great speed, both just seem to have a knack for being open. Neither is a big WR (Welker is 5'9", 185 lbs, Amendola is 5'11", 188 lbs), but they are tough and don't play small. It's even weird that they both played college ball at Texas Tech.
The only difference that stands out is that Welker has avoided serious regular season injuries and has only missed 3 games for the Patriots over the last 6 seasons. In contrast, Amendola missed 15 games in 2011 because of a dislocated elbow injury and 5 games combined last year between both a dislocated clavicle and foot injuries.
However, to think that Amendola only missed 3 games because of the collarbone injury I think proves what type of toughness he has. And until the dislocated elbow injury in 2011, Amendola hadn't missed a game due to injury. I think concerns about Amendola's ability to stay healthy are overblown. Injuries are part of football and none of those Amendola has suffered have been career threatening. None are considered to make him more susceptible to injury in the future.
And while we note Welker's missing of only 3 regular season games in the last 6 years, it does need to be remembered Welker tore up his ACL and MCL in his left knee in week 17 of the 2009 season and was placed on injured reserve for the rest of the playoffs that season. It's not like Welker hasn't had a significant injury, it's just the timing of when it happened makes it easier to forget as we don't see it on the stat logs for the season.
While I have no doubt that Tom Brady and Wes Welker shared a special rapport that will be difficult to replace it, if there is a guy I think can step right in and provide the most seamless transition, it is Amendola. It was a smart move by the Patriots to get him as Welker's replacement as Amendola is 5 years younger and his best football is still front of him. Tom Brady will like his new weapon, possibly just as much as the one that left.