New England Patriots receiver Danny Amendola spoke with the media for the first time since signing a five-year, $31 million contract this week. According to ESPNBoston.com’s Mike Reiss, Amendola’s first two questions were about replacing Pro Bowler Wes Welker.
"As far as comparisons to Wes, I've been hearing it for a long time," Amendola responded. "I watched him play the whole time -- he's a great player, he's had a number of Pro Bowls and done a lot of good things to help the Patriots win. One of my main goals is to fill my role and try to do what I can to now help the Patriots win as well."
Don’t expect the Welker comparisons -- or lofty expectations -- to disappear any time soon. The truth is Amendola is coming to New England under tough circumstances.
Amendola is replacing the Patriots' all-time leading receiver this season. Not only that, Amendola steps in for the popular Welker amid controversy after New England low-balled Welker in contract negotiations. Welker eventually had enough and signed with the rival Denver Broncos.
It's not Amendola's fault that he's replacing one of the faces of New England's franchise. The bar was set extremely high after Welker recorded five 100-catch seasons for the Patriots. Welker also showed tremendous durability and played in all 16 games in four of his six years with New England. In turn, Amendola's durability has been a question. He’s missed more games (20) than he's played (12) the past two years with the St. Louis Rams.
New England may have put Amendola in a no-win situation this season. Patriots fans will be watching Amendola and his chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady closely.
If Amendola catches 50, 60 or even 70 passes next season, that won’t be enough compared to Welker's 118 receptions in 2012. Amendola averages just 10.5 games per season in his career. The second Amendola suffers another injury, Patriots fans will grumble about how tough and durable Welker was in the slot.
The Welker comparisons and expectations are just getting started for Amendola. He better get used to it.