Who Does Tom Brady Miss the Most? It Just Might Be Danny Amendola
By Karen Guregian
FOXBORO -- The Patriots lost quite a few players from their Super Bowl LII starting cast from last season. Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Butler and Brandin Cooks all found new homes either via free agency or, as was the case with Cooks, via trade.
Ten games into the season, which of those players do the Patriots miss the most? Whose absence has been felt to the greatest extent by the Patriots thus far?
At this stage, my vote would go to Amendola.
Of course, cases can be made for pretty much all of the above, but for me, it’s pretty simple. Amendola is the answer because Tom Brady misses him the most.
He misses Amendola’s ability to make plays, his dependability at key points in the game, along with that trust they shared in reacting to defenses and being on the same wavelength. When you’re a receiver, that’s invaluable to Brady.
In the quarterback’s mind, at least, there was a great benefit to having played with Amendola for so long, and experiencing so many years of repetition together, not to mention success.
He doesn’t have that type of bond yet with Cordarrelle Patterson and Josh Gordon. While it was automatic with Amendola, he’s been forcing it with Gordon.
It’s nice having Julian Edelman back as the primary go-to-guy and a chain mover for Brady along with James White, but the Patriots quarterback has still been short on receivers he completely trusts, especially with Rob Gronkowski missing time and not being fully healthy when he has played.
The Patriots haven’t been as good on third down as they have been in the past. Amendola was one of the guys Brady always looked to on that pivotal down, and he usually delivered.
Since he’s left the nest, Amendola, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal, has been doing fine in Miami catching passes from Ryan Tannehill and now Brock Osweiler. He currently leads the Dolphins in receptions (47), yards (456), and first downs (21).
Others might make an argument for Lewis. He practically made the argument for himself after the Titans whooped the Pats two weeks ago in Tennessee.
“Hell yeah it’s personal,” Lewis said after the 34-10 Titans win. “That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your (butt) kicked.”
Lewis signed a four-year deal for around $20 million in free agency with the Titans. That was after a terrific season with the Patriots. He eventually became the Patriots lead back, and also caught quite a few passes coming out of the backfield. He’s always been dynamic with that rare ability to make people miss. He wound up averaging 5.0 yards a carry (180 carries, 896 yards) last season.
Lewis hasn’t had a great year with the Titans (122 carries, 420 yards, 1 TD). He’s flashed in stretches, but is only now in the lead role. He had been sharing carries with Derrick Henry.
Rookie Sony Michel, meanwhile, has actually done a little better (106 carries, 453 yards, 4 TD) than Lewis, he just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. James White, however, has more than made up the difference. Even Patterson has contributed in the backfield to the point where the Patriots have patched it together and gotten by during Michel’s absences. When Michel has been a regular, that’s when the Patriots offense has been at its best. White, meanwhile, is on pace to break the receiving record for backs.
Then there’s Cooks. He’s been one of Jared Goff’s featured weapons out in L.A. Cooks has the team lead in receptions (59), yards (964), gains of 20-plus yards (19), and is second in first downs (42). He’s been a huge star.
That’s great for Cooks. But he wasn’t quite that guy in New England. Brady and Cooks had decent chemistry, but the type of offense he’s now working in LA and the one he had with the Patriots were different. Brady wasn’t targeting him as much, or depending on him like they do in LA because of his fit in the offense and his fit with Brady. That wasn’t likely to change this year if he was kept.
At the outset, he might have been an early favorite given the importance of a left tackle and protecting Brady’s blind side, but Trent Brown has been so good, you rarely think about his predecessor.
Solder, meanwhile, hasn’t had the best season in New York. Ditto Butler in Tennessee.
The Patriots could always use another shutdown corner. If Butler was playing like one, he’d be the answer, hands down. His struggles, however, have been well-documented. Maybe he turns it around in the final stretch.
For now, from the group of players that’s now gone, the Patriots could use Amendola most. That’s the view from here.