Bernie Bytes: Defending Amendola

2012-12-08T00:05:00Z 2012-12-23T17:28:07Z Bernie Bytes: Defending AmendolaBY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist stltoday.com

Some quick hits on the Rams on this busy Friday …

• One thing that drives me nuts is when people try to categorize Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola. I hear this all of the time: “Well, he’s good, but he isn’t a No. 1 receiver.” That’s right. He’s a slot receiver. And comparing a so-called No. 1 receiver to a slot receiver is like comparing a first baseman to a shortstop.

They play different positions and don’t have the same role or responsibility. The skill set isn’t the same. And that’s true of a slot receiver and an outside receiver. They aren’t asked to do the same things on the football field.

As slot guys go, Amendola is among the best in the NFL. And that’s how he should be viewed, instead of trying to rate him based on an outdated and irrelevant model. The role of the slot receiver has evolved over the last few years and represents a major shift in NFL tactics. You don’t think so? Two words: Wes Welker.

So the next time you hear some fool whining about how Sam Bradford relies on Amendola too much, dismiss it as nonsense. Bradford throws to Amendola for several reasons: (1) he’s good … (2) he gets open … (3) he runs great routes … (4) he’s where he’s supposed to be … (5) he reliably catches the ball … (6) the slot is an important position in the Rams’ offensive scheme.

So why the hell wouldn’t Bradford throw to Amendola? And if you think Amendola is overhyped locally, or whatever, then take a few moments to read this analysis from Pro Football Focus:

“When Amendola was injured in Week 5 against the Cardinals, the Rams lost more than just a receiver. He may not be a household name or be classified as an elite receiver, but through four games the Rams’ offense utilized him like he was one. Amendola saw almost 32% of the team’s passes when he was on the field and that number rose to 32.4% when he played in the slot. He rewarded them with the NFL’s third-highest Yards Per Routes Run number from the slot and the second-highest overall.

“That is why it is no coincidence that the Rams’ offense and Sam Bradford have sputtered with him off the field. The Rams’ points per game dropped from 20 before his injury to just under 14 since, and Bradford went from a grade of +7.0 before Week 5 to -1.9 after. Amendola has truly been the key to this offense and Bradford must be counting the days until his return.”

• If you want to question anything about Amendola, it’s his durability. In 2010 Amendola played 677 snaps for the Rams, and ran 364 routes in the slot. Last season Amendola was knocked out of the opening regular-season game after suffering a rather gruesome dislocated elbow injury and was placed on IR. His 2011 action was limited to 40 snaps and 16 routes in the slot. This season Amendola has appeared in eight games, but has played a full game in only six of the eight. He’s been in the action for 369 snaps and 177 routes. Amendola may return Sunday in Buffalo.

• It’s fair to question what, exactly, the Rams should offer Amendola in a new contract after the season. Amendola is as tough as they come in the NFL, always willing to throw his body around, always willing to take a big hit to make a play. But DA’s tenacious competitiveness leads to a lot of punishment.

• By the way: don’t compare Amendola to Danario Alexander. That’s another silly thing I keep hearing. First of all, they play different positions. To use a different example, you don’t compare a drummer to a lead guitarist. They don’t play the same instrument. Second, Amendola hasn’t had six knee surgeries. Third: even with a series of injuries, one that put him out of 15 games last season, Amendola has played more snaps than Alexander over the last three seasons.

• I’m a Danario Alexander fan, and want to see him continue to thrive for the San Diego Chargers. And the former Mizzou wideout has been a true playmaker in his six games for the Chargers this season. But it is truly amazing the way some people — in the zealous attempt to portray Alexander as the next Lance Alworth — completely disregard DX's extensive history of knee injuries and surgeries. He’s played six games this season; I’m thinking Canton will hold off for a while on the induction. Alexander was released by the Rams this past summer because injuries prevented him from practicing. How can a new staff evaluate a player that can’t practice in camp?

• Do you like the way Chris Givens has played for the Rams? I’m thinking that you do. Givens plays the same role in the Rams offense that Alexander would have played. We’ll see who has the longer, and superior, NFL career.

• Now if you want to groan about Brian Quick, have at it. But I would expect dramatic improvement in 2013, after the Rams find a way to help Quick learn the offense at a faster rate.

• According to Pro Football Focus, Sam Bradford’s accuracy when under pass-rush pressure this season ranks 5th in the NFL among quarterbacks that have faced at least 97 snaps under pressure. His accuracy rating in the category is better than that of Matt Schaub, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers, Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

Bernie

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Bernie Miklasz

You've read Bernie Miklasz in the Post-Dispatch since 1989. Now check out a new video "Breakfast with Bernie" every weekday morning. You'll also see more "Bernie Bytes" around the clock as he posts quick-hit commentaries on a variety of topics.

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