When the Patriots signed wide receiver Danny Amendola this offseason New England took a gamble that his injury issues were a thing of the past and that he'd be a younger player who could help this offense for the long haul. As a result, they put their eggs in his basket and let Wes Welker head off to Denver.
Some called Amendola unlucky and that he was a victim of fluke injuries, the most recent of which was a broken collarbone last year in St. Louis that could have killed him. The amazing part of that injury is the fact he recovered in just five weeks and miraculously was back on the field for the Rams, catching 11 passes for 102 yards in a 24-24 tie (why are those still allowed again?) with the San Francisco 49ers.
Before that he dislocated his elbow and partially tore a triceps in training camp in 2011, before coming back in October only to tear the triceps again in practice. That ended his season.
Now here he is, one season later trying to shed the label that he's been saddled with due to what many had felt was just bad luck, and unfortunately he's been struck yet again. During the final two weeks of training camp here in New England he was battling what was thought to be a pulled groin, and after his gutsy week one second half performance, it now appears to be a "torn adductor" following a report yesterday from Fox Sports' Jay Glazer. There's also a possibility he's dealing with a sports hernia, which would likely require surgery and would keep him out a minimum of 3-4 weeks. And we're only two games in.
He's a tough guy and it's hard not to admire his courage. But it's also difficult not to realize that the time he'll now miss just increases the level of difficultly for a team already battling enough in the passing game.
Bill Belichick said back in March that they were aware of Amendola's situation but felt confident enough to sign him, pointing out that other guys have had injuries only later to go on to be injury free.
“There is no [exact] science to it," Belichick told Patriots.com back in March at the NFL Annual Meeting when asked if he was concerned about Amendola's injury history. "There are plenty of guys that come out of the draft that have had injuries and played relatively injury-free. There are other guys that have been injury free and have been injury prone at this level.
"I don’t have a great explanation for that. I don’t think anybody does unless it’s an ongoing situation and a guy has a recurring injury that he’s being treated for, then that is what it is. If it’s anything else, sometimes things happen, sometimes they don’t. When you get a player, you get everything that comes with that player. All the things the person is. It’s like that with every player."
For now he's got a player who is going to miss time for the foreseeable future, putting strain on a position group that already has enough stress as it is. The likely thought process was that with a group of rookies, there would at least be Amendola to shoulder some of the load early on along with Julian Edelman until these guys got up to speed, followed by a return of Rob Gronkowski to help spread things out. They also had Shane Vereen to catch the ball out of the backfield in game one, but now he's out after breaking his wrist in Buffalo, leaving all the focus on Edelman in the interim. The only breaks they seem to be catching are the ones they don't want.
That leaves Tom Brady in the tough position of having to make something out of nothing in the weeks ahead until Gronkowski at least gets back on the field. Hopefully Zach Sudfeld's hamstring injury is progressing and he'll be able to join him, which will hopefully begin to open some opportunities for the rookies to get into gear. But this was certainly not how the Patriots coaching staff likely envisioned the early part of the year unfolding.
For now Amendola has to be frustrated with the fact that, once again, his body has let him down. Some call it bad luck, while others call it a trend that ultimately defines a player. Unfortunately for the Patriots it's simply yet another problem that they really didn't need, and one that hopefully won't continue to plague them over the course of this season.
BRADY RELAXES, WATCHES FOOTBALL OVER THE WEEKEND:
Without a football game on his agenda for this weekend, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady spent his two days doing what any other football fan would. He enjoyed some family time, and also caught some football.
"There was a lot of good games on," said Brady during his weekly appearance on WEEI. "I watched the A&M Alabama game on Saturday, which was fun."
When asked if he uses those games as a scouting tool, Brady said that it's hard to pick up a lot from watching the normal broadcast, and that he mostly watched this weekend's games from a fan perspective.
"It's hard to tell with the TV copy a lot of the times as a scouting tool, so mostly as a fan and just kind of watching a lot of guys that probably I know or I've seen play over the years and guys that I really like watch playing," said Brady. "Yeah, it was a fun day. Like I said, there was a lot of games on. That Red Zone channel is pretty amazing."
Obviously a lot of the focus is on the troubles offensively, but Brady also said that the overall execution is part of the problem, including himself, not just the receivers.
"It's not the receiver position," said Brady. "It's every position, including the quarterback position. So it's the quarterback position, the running backs, tight ends, receivers, we all have to be on the same page and until we are, we're going to struggle.
"I'm really glad we've won these last two games. I think our defense has done such a great job of limiting points and scoring opportunities for our team, getting us great field position. We just haven't done much to take advantage of those things."
THIRD DOWN A PROBLEM SO FAR THIS SEASON:
Going through some numbers last night as I finish up launching this year's edition of our stats database (which should be available later today) and it's hard not to notice a glaring issue with this offense so far through two games. New England overall is just 15-of-38 on 3rd down this season (39.5%), over 10% lower than where they finished last season at 48.7%.
One thing hurting that percentage is the fact that they've already been in quite a few long-yardage situations. They've been in 3rd and 8 or more 14 times so far this season, converting just five times (36% conversion) which is dragging down their average.
Overall surprisingly Brady's not far off from where he finished last year in terms of his completion percentage. Last season he was 92-of-150 (61%) on third down with 73 passing first downs, 13 of which were touchdowns (the league counts a touchdown as a first down). So far this season he's 19-of-32 (59%) with 15 first downs and 3 touchdowns.
However, one glaring stat, they've faced 3rd and one three times this year, with 0 first downs. That's obviously a problem, especially after last season where they faced that situation 30 times and converted 24 of them. So that will be something to watch in the weeks ahead.
SOME INTERESTING NUMBERS:
The guys at Cold Hard Football Facts pointed out some interesting numbers in a good article that ran yesterday regarding the fact the Patriots are getting back to their roots in terms of "winning ugly". They reminded us that the victory Thursday night by the Patriots marked the first time since 2004 that Brady's team won a game scoring 13 point or less. The team accomplished a similar feat in 2008, but that was with Matt Cassel at QB in a 13-0 win over Buffalo.
They also pointed out that the 2003 Patriots notably won 17 games and a Super Bowl while scoring just 348 regular-season points, 209 points fewer than the 2012 Patriots. Something to keep in mind should the team keep winning these close games.
ON TO THIS MORNING'S LINKS:
Tom Brady on the offense: 'Obviously, what we're doing isn't good enough' - Jeff Howe - Howe has some notes from Brady's weekly appearance on WEEI where the receiver talks about the fact that he's just as much to blame as his receivers.
Opinions split on Amendola injury - Karen Guregian - Guregian spoke to a couple of different doctors who had varying opinions on the timetable for Amendola's return.
A how-to on earning Tom Brady's trust - Mark Daniels - Daniels has an article this morning with quotes from former Patriots receivers who talked about playing for Brady and what it took to earn his trust.
Patriots’ Kenbrell Thompkins overcame troubled past - Shira Springer - Springer has a good read this morning on Thompkins with another good feature that exposes some additional facts that past ones didn't in this article.
Rare bad reviews for Patriots’ Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork - Ben Volin - Volin has a great read this morning with his "On Football" column, which gives some great insight into what happened Thursday night.
Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich Shined as Unsung Heroes in Patriots-Jets Game Based on Film Review - Doug Kyed - Kyed has a good article pointing out some key points from the game and writes that Hightower had one of the best overall games of any Patriots player Thursday night.
Patriots Get Back to Work Today - Mike Reiss - Reiss writes that the Patriots will get back to work today and that since they figure to be in full pads at some point, Rob Gronkowski is a player who will benefit the most since they'll be able to gauge whether or not he's ready to go.
Tom Brady Confidence Index, Week 2: Julian Edelman on the Rise - Christopher Price - Price has his week 2 edition of Brady's "Confidence Index", and writes that Edelman is becoming a reliable target after two solid weeks.
Michael Buchanan making an impact for Patriots - Jennifer Toland - Toland has a good read on Michael Buchanan, who made the Patriots' first sack of the season Thursday night.
Diversified Fronts: Patriots Defense Shows Array of Personnel in Week 2 Win vs. Jets - Oliver Thomas - Our friends at NEPatriotsDraft.com havea good article this morning breaking down the multiple defensive fronts that the Patriots showed throughout Thursday' night's game.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST:
What Tom Brady’s body language is saying about the Patriots receivers - Scott Stenson - Stenson writes that Brady "hates his new receivers" and that Brady, "hates them with the power of a thousand suns, as evidenced by the fact that he spent much of Thursday night in a seething rage and caused no shortage of elderly lip readers to flutter their hands over their hearts at the cuss words he was uttering."