Amendola Providing Happy Returns ..
By Nick Wagoner
In their long search to find a solid kick and punt returner capable of improving field position, the Rams hoped to overturn a diamond in the rough when they signed Danny Amendola from Philadelphia’s practice squad on Sept. 22.
The Rams wasted no time in throwing Amendola into the fire, placing him on the field after just three practices as a Ram. Not only did Amendola immediately handle the punt and kick return duties but he also got thrown right into the mix at receiver in his second game.
And so far, at least, Amendola has been everything the Rams had hoped.
“It's baptism by fire, because we had to get him some wide receiver reps in just his second game,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “But he's a pretty sharp guy.”
Indeed, Amendola has picked up the system with little trouble. Although that was expected because he came from a system in Philadelphia that is nearly identical to the Rams’, Amendola’s production has still been a bit of a pleasant surprise.
After catching one pass for 8 yards in his first two weeks, Amendola has posted 13 catches for 103 yards in the past three weeks and has proved to be a reliable target for quarterback Marc Bulger on third down and an adept runner after the catch with his penchant for taking quick screens and gaining extra yards after the reception.
“Yeah, that’s what I set out to do. In every situation I have been in, I have tried to make the most of my opportunities wherever I go,” Amendola said. “It’s progressing. I think I have improved in a lot of areas. I am excited.”
Of course, Amendola’s production as a slot receiver could simply be viewed as an added bonus to the boost he’s given to the team’s previously lacking return game.
Amendola is averaging 24.3 yards per kick return on 29 attempts with a long of 58. He also had a long return brought back by penalty in San Francisco. And on eight punt returns, he is getting 8.1 yards per try.
“There’s a lot coach (Tom) McMahon has helped me learn about setting up blocks and stuff, especially on kickoff return,” Amendola said. “That’s a big reason we have been successful. I have learned a lot since I got here.”
Amendola is likely to continue to figure more prominently in the passing game each week and will certainly continue to get opportunities as the returner.
“I always have something to prove,” Amendola said. “I think there will be some long returns to come and I am looking forward to them. We are just on the brink of breaking one so it will be nice when it happens.”
IN A SNAP: Speaking of special teams, this week will be the first time in eight years the Rams have had someone other than Chris Massey enter the game as a long snapper.
Massey suffered a season-ending ACL injury against the Colts last week and the Rams signed Ryan Neill to replace him. Neill has spent this week playing catch up and getting used to the setup in St. Louis.
“There’s a lot of adjustment,” Neill said. “There’s timing issues where there’s different calls, different terminology, different types of sets. It’s getting used to the timing and all of us getting comfortable.”
Neill is in his third season in the league after spending the past two years snapping for Buffalo. Before that, he was on the Bills practice squad as a defensive end. After spending a year there, Buffalo special teams coach Bobby April made Neill aware that his future in the NFL was likely dependent on long snapping.
“The first year in Buffalo I cam as a defensive end, my goal was to make the team as a defensive end,” Neill said. “Bobby April the special teams coach up there talked me into snapping career wise, and gave me the opportunity to have a long career with it.”
Neill flew to St. Louis on Monday and participated in a workout with three other candidates. In addition to the pertinent decision makers, punter/holder Donnie Jones and kicker Josh Brown were also present.
Jones said he was pleased with how it went and the final choice.
“We were here for the workouts,” Jones said. “That was one thing we talked about was how important it was for us to kind of come here and evaluate him because timing with field goals, myself holding and with punts we want to know exactly what the options are and be able to have our input. Now, ultimately we didn’t make the decision, they did. I was happy with the decision they made. I think the guy has two years experience and it will just be us working and trying to establish timing and going out and being successful.”
ON THE CORNER: Massey wasn’t the only injured Ram who needed a replacement this week. The Rams also placed cornerback Bradley Fletcher on injured reserve with a torn lateral meniscus and ACL.
Fletcher had surgery on the meniscus earlier in the week and his season is done. In his place, the Rams have yet to make a final decision on who will start but Spagnuolo indicated Friday that Quincy Butler could get his first opportunity to start this season.
“Quincy has done a nice job for us,” defensive coordinator Ken Flajole said. “He hasn’t gotten all the reps that the other guys have because we had some people in front of him, but as you mentioned, we’ve had some injuries there so he is getting a chance to step up. He has done a nice job this week and hopefully he’ll continue and play like a seasoned vet on Sunday.”
Assuming it’s Butler and Ron Bartell on the outside, Justin King, who is returning from a groin injury, would handle the nickel back job.
LINEBACKER LINEUP: The Rams also have a decision to make in terms of the situation at linebacker after David Vobora made his return from a four-game suspension this week.
Vobora has been doing a bit of everything on the practice field, working in the middle with the scout team, with the first team on the strong side and playing on special teams.
Paris Lenon will remain on the weak side with James Laurinaitis in the middle but it appears Vobora will be back in his old strong side spot.
Spagnuolo said Vobora fit right back in just fine and though he could alternate with Larry Grant, Vobora is the likely starter.
“To have a guy that has been in our system and to have him back and fresh legs – he’s got the freshest legs in camp right now – it is good to have him back,” Flajole said. “It adds and gives us some depth and gives us some options at linebacker so we welcome him back.”
GOING HOME: The Rams have plenty of players with ties to the Detroit area and all will be going home to play in a regular season game for the first time in a long time.
Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe is from Windsor, Ontario, Canada, just on the other side of the border from Detroit. Clifton Ryan is from Saginaw, Mich., and played collegiately at Michigan State. Receiver Ruvell Martin is from Muskegon, Mich., cornerback Ron Bartell is from Detroit and James Hall is a former Lion who also attended the University of Michigan.
Bartell is going to host some teammates at his house for a bit on Saturday and Ryan said he expects to have a nice turnout of support from friends and family on Sunday.
“Right now I am at 34 tickets but a lot of people bought their own tickets and a couple of my friends bought their own suite,” Ryan said. “Yeah, there will be a lot of 95 jerseys but probably a lot of 92 Michigan State jerseys in the stands too.”
INJURY REPORT: The Rams injury report did not change much on Friday as the players expected to be OK were and the ones expected to be out were.
Ryan returned from illness and is fine. Donnie Avery, Hall and King have been limited in practice but gotten quite a bit of work and should be good to go as well. They are listed as probable.
As expected, guard Richie Incognito sat out again Friday and will not be available this weekend. C.J. Ah You (ankle) did do some limited work and will be questionable for the game.
Re: Amendola Providing Happy Returns ..
It's hard to believe some people don't think Amendola has added much. Not only is he a threat to break every return, he's been the only real dependable receiver on the roster the last several weeks. He's been a great pickup IMO.
Re: Amendola Providing Happy Returns ..
My favorite players (I'm talking new guys) are Danny Amendola on O, and James Laurinaitus on D. I'm hoping they both score today ..
Danny A. = The Little Engine That Could !! :)
Re: Amendola Providing Happy Returns ..
he wasnt to happy when he got leveled today on that kickoff return ouch!!! but what a good win!!!! good job rams