Detroit Lions: This new weapon can unlock the offense
By Kellen Voss
The Detroit Lions made a lot of moves this offseason to improve, but the addition of one receiver has the potential to bring the offense to another level.
With the first week of OTA’s already in the books, the Detroit Lions and their fans’ excitement levels continue to rise because of the good play of young players and the key move of Frank Ragnow from guard to center.
But what is perhaps the most intriguing part of OTA’s so far is the new energy provided to the offense, thanks to the offseason edition of slot receiver Danny Amendola, who has shown flashes of success that fans really enjoy and has the potential to take the Detroit offense to a whole new level.
Many Lions fans were disappointed to see former Pro Bowl receiver Golden Tate leave the team via trade to the Philadelphia Eagles. But Detroitlions.com senior writer Tim Twentyman thinks Amendola can be a viable replacement for Tate.
"“Watching Amendola on Tuesday, he hasn’t lost a step at age 33 and is really crafty working the interior. He has a knack for separating from defenders and finding the open spots. He and Stafford hooked up a number of times. If that continues, I can see some real trust forming between those two, with Amendola getting a chance to be a security-blanket-type receiver for Stafford in the middle, much like Golden Tate was for many years.”"
As good of flashes as Stafford has shown in his decade playing for the Lions, he has proven to go for a lot of risky throws. Having Amendola always been open on underneath routes and out routes as a secondary option for crucial third-and-longs can help get the Lions offense out of more than a few tough spots.
Amendola was a crucial cog in the offense of the New England Patriots dynasty of this century, providing that same security blanket for quarterback Tom Brady that Twentyman is suggesting the former Patriot can be for Stafford.
It made too much sense for general manager Bob Quinn to pick up Amendola in free agency, being that he has Patriot ties and worked with head coach Matt Patricia for five seasons. Amendola comes from the winning culture that the Lions are trying to replicate, and it’s helpful to have guys who have experienced success in the locker room.
While the former Texas Tech Red Raider has never made a Pro Bowl himself, being a second-or-third option on one of the most successful teams football has ever seen has to at least be somewhat of a good thing, and he has the stats to prove that he made an impact in a loaded offensive unit.
The man caught 230 balls for 2,383 yards and 12 touchdowns for the New England Patriots, with most of those catches being as the second or third option on a particular play. Amendola has proven in not only New England, but also with the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins, that he doesn’t need to be the primary option in an offense to make his presence felt.
The Lions’ offense doesn’t need Amendola to be the primary receiving option, with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay likely to be the main options barring injury. With Amendola running safer routes and forcing defenses to account for his speed, it opens up the field and allow Stafford to do what he does best: launching bombs towards the sidelion to one of his tall receivers.
The improved timing on routes with Stafford in the first week of OTAs is encouraging, because one can only assume that the chemistry between the two will improve as the offseason workouts continue to pile up this Summer.
It seems that Amendola has already settled in since being picked up in March, as he recently participated in batting practice with the Detroit Tigers. He already has pride in representing the city of Detroit, and may very well be one of the most popular athletes in the city come September.
While a lot of attention has been drawn towards the offseason acquisitions of talented free agents such as Trey Flowers and Jess James, perhaps the player acquired in free agency that can make the greatest impact for the team right away is Amendola.
If he can provide at least half of the production that Tate provided the team with in his prior years, the Lions offense can reach a new level with elite aerial attack, which could help the team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2016.