In the aftermath of Week One, there was a fair amount of conversation about Wes Welker’s role in the Patriots offense after he played a far smaller role than he has in past years.
It looked like were heading for a similar discussion after the game against the Cardinals when the Pats got the ball for the first time. Julian Edelman joined Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in the team’s base offense with Welker on the sideline looking on at the action. Hernandez got hurt just a few snaps into the game, though, and the offense was forced to adapt away from the two tight end sets that they featured on every snap of the opening game.
They went with three receivers more often than not and Welker played on 63 of the 79 remaining snaps. He also saw a team-high 11 targets, finishing with five catches for 95 yards, which tells you that there’s still a comfortable spot for the receiver when Tom Brady goes looking for a receiver. Even with that, there were times when the team went with two wideouts and that meant Welker was back on the bench. Welker played the good soldier when asked about his playing time after the game.
“You know, you want to be out there, I think as a competitor and everything else, especially on Sundays, it’s what we play for and what we work for and you want to be out there,” Welker said in comments distributed by the team. “At the same time, Coach felt like whatever was best for the team and I’m for that and I totally understand that and I’m just there to help out however I can.”
The Pats went with multiple tight ends on just 19 snaps after Hernandez was injured, according to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, and it doesn’t seem like Daniel Fells or Michael Hoomanawanui will be able to mimic what the team loses with Hernandez out of action. That suggests a bigger role for Welker going forward, which will seem like even old times even if the impetus isn’t the same as it was in the past.