I’m tired of hearing it.
I’m tired of the comparisons of players based on size and skin color.
Last week, these comparisons might have reached an all-time high when, within hours, Wes Welker was signed by the Denver Broncos and Danny Amendola signed with the Patriots.
Right away, ESPN and NFL Network tee’d off on the topic, just as the general public had done all offseason. “New England swapped Welker for Amendola”, they said. “Did they make the right move?”
Then some grumblings trickled down from the Denver fanbase . “What’s going to happen to Brandon Stokley? Is this the end for him?”
I don’t know if it’s the fact we as a nation are that collectively ignorant or if it’s just that we don’t actually watch the sport we claim to love so much with anything more than a drunken, passive eye.
Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
First things first. Wes Welker is now a Bronco and Amendola is now a Patriot. Yes. These are facts. But to make the claim or even have the expectation that Amendola was brought in to duplicate Welker’s production is just lazy analysis.
Welker is prototypical slot receiver — a guy who can catch screens or underneath passes and rack up significant yards after the catch with his shiftiness. Moreover, he’d become the first option for Tom Brady over the past couple of years.
Outside of skin color, alma mater (Texas Tech) and the fact that he lines up in the slot every so often, Danny Amendola is very little like Wes Welker as a football player.
Amendola is not only two inches taller than Welker, but has an obvious wingspan advantage allowing him to use his 5’11 frame like that of a receiver who stands 6’1. He’ll make catches Welker cannot based on physical makeup alone. In this way, Amendola is very much like former Miami Dolphins receiver Chris Chambers, a guy who lined up as a No. 2 receiver his entire career despite standing, like Amendola, 5’11.
Amendola has never been the first option in an offense. He has been, however, the clutch guy on 3rd downs. This explains his lesser average yards per reception than Welker. It’s pretty hard to rack up the YAC when your quarterback is always throwing you the ball with a defender hanging on your back. Amendola should get more open space to roam in whatever scheme the Patriots role with this season.
Another factor people don’t consider when comparing Amendola and Welker is speed. As I stated before, Welker is shifty. This was what made him so effective after the catch as well as in the punt return game. Amendola, on the other hand has that “run away from you”, gamebreaker speed (you see that on display in this video). He’s a guy who can catch screens and run sharp underneath routes as well as stretch the field vertically.
Basically, where Welker was great at being simply a slot receiver — possibly the best ever, Amendola is more of an all-around talent that gives New England’s offense more options.
Now we get to the Denver side of things and what to do with Welker and Stokely. Again, these two may appear similar but actually specialize in different things. Where Welker is used to being the first option in an offense, Stokley is usually the last, often even after the tight end and halfback.
Stokley also stretches the field better than Welker and in my opinion has better hands, making him more of a scoring threat from outside of the red zone than Welker.
If Stokley does retire, believe me when I say it will have less to do with Welker’s presence and more to do with Stokely’s age. Ideally for the Broncos, they could keep Stokely and line him up four-wide with Welker, Thomas and Decker. That should scare opposing teams much more than just the three-headed monster everyone is already anticipating.
Going forward, let us collectively try not to compare players based on size and skin color and instead take a little more time examining what exactly it is that each individual player does differently. Anything less is selling yourself short as a true fan and allowing ESPN and talking heads all over to makeup your mind and form opinions for you.