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Monday, July 29, 2013
Pats hope Amendola replaces Welker in slot

By Micah Adams
ESPN Stats & Information

AP PhotosDanny Amendola, left, will likely be the top target for Tom Brady this season.
The 2013 New England Patriots have experienced a great deal of turnover from last season. Let's evaluate the top questions facing them as the new season approaches.

How significant are the personnel losses?
Including Rob Gronkowski, who is currently on the physically unable to perform list, the Patriots are likely without each of their top five receivers from last season to begin the season. Those five players (Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead) represent more than 84 percent of Tom Brady’s completions last season.

Should Gronkowski miss Week 1, the Patriots would likely become the first team since the 1997 New Orleans Saints to start a season without their five leaders in receiving yards from the previous season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Who will Brady rely on?
The Patriots will be relying on Danny Amendola to help offset the loss of Welker. Amendola’s 2012 season was strikingly similar to Welker’s in his first season prior to joining the Patriots, with Welker catching just four more passes and Amendola catching two more touchdowns.

Brady hopes to replicate the success he had with Welker with Amendola this season, particularly out of the slot. Although Welker is regarded as perhaps the league’s best slot receiver, Amendola ranked second last season in receptions per game out of the slot behind Welker.

New England is now especially thin at tight end, but Jake Ballard could be a potential solution after missing the entire 2012 season. In 2011, he emerged as Eli Manning’s favorite red zone target, leading the New York Giants with eight red zone receptions.

What's at stake for Brady?
Brady continues to climb in the record books, and this season he has a chance to gain some more headway on other legends.

Brady (136-39 career record) needs 11 wins to tie Dan Marino for the fourth-most wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history and 12 to tie John Elway for third-most.

In his sixth game of the season, Brady could tie Drew Brees’ NFL record for consecutive games with a passing touchdown (54).

Brady (334) could pass Fran Tarkenton (342) for the fourth-most passing touchdowns in league history.

More important than any statistic, Brady and the Patriots haven’t won a Super Bowl in nine years. Since winning his first 10 career playoff games, Brady is 7-7 in the postseason.