There was a lot of discussion this offseason about the possibility that 2012 will be wide receiver Wes Welker’s final year as a member of the Patriots.
Subscribers to that theory got some support in Sunday’s win over the Titans. According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, Welker played on 43 of 67 offensive snaps Sunday. That adds up to 64.2 percent, down sharply from the nearly 90 percent of the snaps that Welker played for the team last season. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez never left the field, Brandon Lloyd saw 14 more snaps and Julian Edelman saw action on 23 plays, which means he was essentially splitting time with Welker.
Welker finished the game with three catches (on five targets) for 14 yards, his lowest yardage total in a game since the season finale in 2009 when he blew out his knee against the Texans. He also had a bad drop early in the game, which might have played a role in both his usage and his targets as time went along.
Or it might have just been the Patriots’ particular game plan for this week before completely changing things against the Cardinals in Week Two. The Patriots have never been a particularly predictable team when it comes to such things, so it’s too early to draw any grand conclusions about the Patriots starting to move away from Welker before severing their ties with him after the season.
It’s something to keep an eye on as the year unfolds, especially if Welker continues to slide further away from his former place of prominence in the Patriots offense.