May favorite nickname for Danny Amendola: the poor man's Wes Welker. Sure, it sounds a little mean at first, but it's more of a post-snark Horatio Alger label than anything else, a complement for an undrafted guy the St. Louis Rams plucked off a practice squad and turned into the team's do-it-all player. Kick returns, punt returns and leading the team in passes thrown his direction, do-it-all Danny was essential to the Rams game plan.
Not to take anything away from Amendola, but it was also a reminder of just how badly the Rams needed another receiver with that kind of consistency. Put a faster, bigger guy out there with Amendola, who equalled the Texas Tech product in heart and scrap and it's a safe bet that the Rams would have wrapped up the NFC West.
But we're not here to praise Danny; we're here to look at some stats. Today's digits come courtesy of the gang over at Pro Football Prospectus, whose Mike Clay broke down the target distributions of the 42 most-targeted wide receiversin the NFL last season.
The breakdown of Amendola's targets will not surprise anyone who watched the dink and dunk passing game week after week. Presenting the numbers...
20+ yards - 4%
10-19 yards - 13%
0-9 yards - 64%
Behind the line - 19%
Nothing shocking...not at all. Sam Bradford set a record for the number of attempts and completions by a rookie quarterback. Taking nothing away from his impressive skill set, which includes guided missile deep accuracy, that probably wouldn't have been possible without a shortened passing game and a receiver like Danny Amendola, whose 69 percent catch rate was among the best in the league. Anyhow, I'm not here to rehash the Rams offensive strategy.
Now, how does the poor man's Wes Welker compare to the real thing? Check out Welker's distributions.
20+ yards - 2%
10-19 yards - 17%
0-9 yards - 68%
Behind the line - 13%
Very similar numbers, no? Of course, the Patriots had players to stretch the field and diversify their passing game last season. Early on that was Randy Moss, to a small degree, and Deon Branch, but their pair of tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, played a big role too.
Welker had a 70 percent catch rate, and both players were targeted 123 times. And lest you didn't know, Welker was also an undrafted player from Texas Tech. [Cue Twilight Zone theme song]
Amendola's pass distributions may have some thinking of the Rams' limited options last year, but it has me tantalized at what lies ahead, and just how close at hand a prolific offense might be. Adding the right mix of playmakers during this offseason, if that ever happens, to a Rams offense already featuring Bradford, a star like Steven Jackson and an essential player like Amendola will automatically improve things. Give the whole thing another year, and it could be something really special.