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Amendola Emerging As One Of League’s Best In The Slot

Nathan Grimm (@Nate_Grimm)
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Danny Amendola #16 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on November 22, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Rams 21-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Danny Amendola #16 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball against the Arizona Cardinals at the Edward Jones Dome on November 22, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals beat the Rams 21-13. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

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Danny Amendola often draws comparisons to New England Patriots WR Wes Welker, and it’s easy to see why.

Welker graduated from Texas Tech University. Amendola graduated from Texas Tech University. Welker was an undrafted free agent out of college. Amendola went undrafted as well. Welker is a diminutive slot receiver with sure hands. Amendola is too.

Perhaps the one trait that most differentiates the two is performance. Welker is in his ninth season and has over 8,000 career receiving yards on over 700 receptions. Amendola, in just his fourth season, is far less accomplished than his New England counterpart.

Still, it’s not as if Amendola is a throwaway member of St. Louis Rams. If Amendola is able to stay healthy the rest of the season he has a chance to set personal career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns; those numbers could approach 100 receptions and 1,000 yards if everything breaks right.

Assuming health is a risky proposition, though. This year was supposed to signal Amendola’s arrival as an impact player before a clavicle injury on Oct. 4 forced him to miss a month. A similar breakout was predicted before last season, a season in which he was limited to just five catches due to a dislocated left elbow that ended his season after the first week.

When healthy, Amendola has proven to be the Rams’ most reliable weapon in the passing game. In 2010, his last full season, Amendola caught 85 passes for 689 yards in helping the Rams get to within a game of the postseason. It’s that consistency that has also made him QB Sam Bradford’s favorite target. Already this season, Amendola has games of 15 and 11 receptions, and he’s averaging seven catches per game.

Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said Amendola is a difference-maker, one of the reasons the Rams threatened to upend the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in his return.

“He does things for our offense,” Fisher said. “He creates opportunities for other people. In addition to that, he’s part of the reason that we were better on third down (Sunday). He can get open and Sam can get the ball to him. For a little guy, he’s got real good run-after-catch skills.”

Where Amendola has helped open up the offense, the offense may now be in a position to help Amendola as well. A two-headed rushing attack should force defenses to take notice, with RBs Steven Jackson and Daryl Richardson combining for 159 yards against the 49ers Sunday. And although he didn’t play Sunday, rookie WR Chris Givens gives the Rams their first legitimate deep threat in recent memory. Both components should help to free up Amendola going forward.

After muddling through three fairly anonymous professional seasons, Welker took off after relocating to New England and establishing a rapport with QB Tom Brady. In that, his age 26 season, Welker caught 112 passes for 1,175 yards. Amendola is in the midst of his fourth year; he just turned 27 on Nov. 2.

Amendola may never reach the levels of Welker, who has played in some of the most potent passing offenses in NFL history. But for all their similarities, one more wouldn’t surprise anyone, either.

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