Detroit Lions: The growing Matthew Stafford, Danny Amendola connection

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images) /

The connection between Matthew Stafford and Danny Amendola was strong for the Detroit Lions in 2019.

Last March, it wasn’t much of a surprise when the Detroit Lions signed wide receiver Danny Amendola to join the Pride as a free agent. After all, general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have made it an offseason ritual to add former New England Patriots to Detroit’s roster being former Pats themselves.

Amendola’s role in Motown was clear. With wide receiver and resident YAC King Golden Tate no longer in the Motor City following a midseason trade to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions needed a new weapon out of the slot as well as a new security blanket for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Yet, there were lingering questions about just how well the 33-year old receiver would fit that role in Detroit. After all, Amendola was just released by the Miami Dolphins after a single season. He did record 59 receptions for 575 yards and a touchdown as a 15-game starter, but the Dolphins would go 7-9 and head coach Adam Gase would be fired at the end of the season.

But any concerns were assuage early on as Amendola and Stafford displayed a strong connection from the outset. And that chemistry was on full display in Week One when the two-time Super Bowl winning receiver was targeted 13 times against the Arizona Cardinals in his regular season debut. Amendola would go on to record seven receptions for 104 yards and his only touchdown of the season in that very first contest.

Unfortunately, Stafford would only play eight games in 2019 due to a back injury. So we weren’t able to see how that chemistry would have grown throughout an entire season. But according to the football analytic website Pro Football Focus, that connection was strong enough to earn Stafford the NFL’s top passing grade when targeting the slot last year.

PFF would clarify that Amendola saw 35 of those 95 slot attempts, with the next closest Lion being first-round rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson (18). And let’s not forget that last season was also the first for new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell in the Motor City. And the connection between Stafford and Amendola was part of the reason the offense clicked early on.

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Stafford and Amendola were a great combo for the Detroit Lions in 2020

In fact, three of the Amendola’s top games last season came with Stafford under center.

  • Week 1 – 7 recs, 104 yards, 1 touchdown
  • Week 7 – 8 recs,105 yards
  • Week 8 – 8 recs, 95 yards
  • Week 15 – 8 recs, 102 yards (without Stafford)

Amendola finished his first season in Detroit posting 62 receptions for 678 yards and a touchdown. He was targeted 97 times, his most since 2012 which was his final season with the St. Louis Rams. And although his catch rate of 63.9 percent was the second lowest of his 11-year career, Amendola did have backup quarterbacks Jeff Driskel and undrafted rookie David Blough under center for half the season.

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Coming off a disappointing 3-12-1 season, fans of the Detroit Lions may have little to get excited about entering the new year. But the growing connection between Matthew Stafford and Danny Amendola going into a second season under Darrell Bevell’s offensive scheme is certainly excitement-worthy.