Wes Welker sees sharp decline in his playing time


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.

39 responses to “Wes Welker sees sharp decline in his playing time

  1. Didn’t play a snap in the preseason either. With the emergence of Ridley and the running game, could Belichick think Welker is expendable? In recent years he’s shipped out Branch, Seymour, Moss and Maroney before the trade deadline. Something to keep an eye on.

  2. He’s not the first vet to be discarded like trash by the Pats.

    I’m sure he won’t be the last either.

  3. I think it’s pretty obvious, and simple, with what Josh McDaniels is doing. He’s taking away Brady’s security blanket, and by doing so, opening up the offense to make it more diverse.

    That way, when they get into a jam, the offense won’t be so one dimensional.

  4. Welker’s 4 catches yesterday has no bearing on what will happen next week. Anybody who follows the Pat’s knows how game plans change week to week. Next week he might have 12 catches for 110 yards.

  5. Don’t feel sorry for a guy who signed his tender and is making 9.5 million this year. Plus the Pats ran the ball more yesterday. So while he didn’t have the catches, neither did anyone else. Brady only completed 21 passes. The Josh McDaniels Pats offense is more about balance.

  6. Let’s see…he was held back in preseason this year being a veteran and for a death in his family. Makes sense to me to not throw him out there for 70 plays in the first game of the year.

    BTW…he’s caught around 100 catches since he arrived in 2007. One game in 2012 does not make a shifting focus away from him. Dial it back a bit…let’s see what happens by week 17.

  7. The PAtriots try to field the best 53 within the payroll limits. Welker has been great, but came from nowhere. All of his “greatness” has been with the Pats.

    Those vets a previous poster says the Pats trashed, were not trashed, they were traded or signed with teams willing to spend more money on them. That includes many all pro defenders and Vinatieri and now Welker. These are money decisions. Anyone with gas left in the tank goes on to make more money elsewhere. If all they cared about was winning and being a Pat, most of them would still be with them.

    They proved yesterday they don’t even really need Welker.

  8. trojanwarrior007 says:
    Sep 10, 2012 9:55 AM
    honestly I feel bad for the guy. the Pats should have just let him walk via free agency if they knew all along that he’s not in the long term plans.


    Yeah that makes sense….Let the receiver who has been either #1 or #2 in the league for the last 5 years in terms of yards and/or receptions walk away in free agency without getting anything for him…

    The Patriots focused more on the run yesterday because they’re trying to balance the offense more instead of solely relying on the pass like they have the last 5 years…Someone already said it but he may have had one down game but next week he could have 12 catches…You never know how Belichick plans to attack the opposing defenses and we all know McDaniels loved to use Welker before he left to coach the Broncos so I’m sure we’ll see more of Welker as the season progresses…And no, I don’t think this was in any way part of a plan to phase him out and lower his value or plan for life without him

  9. I wouldn’t worry about Wes he will make plenty of plays , when he’s needed for a particular game plan he will be called upon this is media drama just like last week when Hernandez got his pay day they all ran to Wes to get him to shoot himself in the foot and say something derogatory about the coach and the team they need headlinesa

  10. The dude caught something like 550 passes over the past 5 seasons. I would think it’d make a whole lotta sense, at age 31, to start lessening his workload, especially when your alternatives are named Gronkowski, Hernandez and Lloyd.
    No need to the gun with regard to the usage of Welker after one week.

  11. Haha, 1 game and we get stuff like this? Geessh.

    He would have had another catch for about 25 more yards if he didnt kill a first quarter drive by letting a pass hit him in the face.

    Unless there is an injury Wes will end up with a ton of catches like usual. He barely played all preseason and they ran the crap out of the ball, this is not a big deal.

  12. Welker has absorbed a lot of punishment over the last five years playing the slot. He has also developed a tendency to drop a pass here and there. This is normal for any player who plays in a league where DB’s and LB’s can sandwich you with tremendous force. He is making big money, on a contender and is open to loss of playing time due to the competition from team mates. We cannot predict this teams strategy due to the number of offensive weapons now available to Brady.

  13. Honestly … I think it is about time teams have figured out that you have to cover this guy… I feel like Tennessee took Wes out of the game and the decison was made to lessen Brady’s dependence on him… lets see more games before we all jump off the Welker bandwagon.

  14. vcupats says:
    Sep 10, 2012 9:46 AM
    Didn’t play a snap in the preseason either. With the emergence of Ridley and the running game, could Belichick think Welker is expendable? In recent years he’s shipped out Branch, Seymour, Moss and Maroney before the trade deadline. Something to keep an eye on.


    Although I agree with another poster that one game does not create a trend, I suspect vcu is right. Welker made a mistake in taking his contract dispute public, and players have been run out of town for less. Bringing in Salas, who is a promising young slot receiver, could be the death knell for Welker in Foxboro. I think the Patriots are just waiting on the right offer.

  15. Welker will ask for his release by week 8..
    He wants out. His dream is to play for the Raiders and I believe he will make his dream come true. Just like Bradys dream is to play for the 49ers, I also believe that will happened but not for another 5 years when he is old and Pats don’t want him anymore.

  16. joetoronto says:
    Sep 10, 2012 9:52 AM
    He’s not the first vet to be discarded like trash by the Pats.

    I’m sure he won’t be the last either.


    This is the reason that the Pats have been successful for so long. Although Welker has been the model Patriot, he will cost $9.5 mil this year and a potential $11.4 next year if they franchise him. With all the weapons they have at their disposal he potentially becomes expendable. Knock them all you like for playing hardball but that is one of the reasons they have had a great team for so long. They don’t pay someone for past performance.

  17. It’s called game planning. I am sure he will be plenty utilized throughout the year and will still have tremendous stats. He is not a disgruntled player, not demanding a trade. He comes in and works his tail off every day just like a good soldier. BB just likes to game plan and keep the other team off balance.

    Gave us a good look at some newcomers, though.

  18. Welker is the one holding out for a large contract. He created bad blood in the process. He waited til the last minute to accept the franchise tag. Brady’s tenure will depend on his performance and contract demands. I don’t see him getting a Peyton contract from the Pats when he’s 37.

  19. I am not particularly concerned with the output of any one particular player, as long as the overall team result is positive. Wes Welker is certainly capable of being productive; because of family circumstances (and who knows, maybe there are other reasons, maybe there are not), the team did just fine with the contributions that he and others made.

    Deion Branch, while he was with the Patriots, was often similar; one week, he would have ten or eleven catches; another week, David Givens, David Patton, or a cast of others, depending on the game plan and what opposing defenses would do, dictated the stats in the game. To me, Tom Brady was always at his best when passing to as many as nine different targets. The defense could therefore not key on any one particular player. This was when they were the most effective.

    In those days, they also had a much better mix of run and pass, first with Antoine Smith at running back, then later with Corey Dillon, with Kevin Faulk as the alternate option, particularly on draw plays and play action passes.

    If the Patriots can come up with an offense that really utilizes everyone, then no one scheme will shut them down. Considering what has happened twice against the Giants in the two most recent Super Bowl losses, I think it is to the benefit of the team to take advantage of every match up. Sure, in any particular game, go with what works. But in the long run, vary the offense, and get all aspects of the game honed and working well. Then when it really matters, it will all fit together.

    I hope that Wes remains in the team plans for some time to come, but let’s face it, if he is too expensive, it makes good sense for the team to have many good players (including Wes) than overpaying (as Buffalo did for Williams and Anderson on their D Line). Balance and the team, effectively playing in all aspects of the game is what produces a winner.

    That said, a stifling defense with a lot of pressure is what gave the Giants two wins, and that’s what gave the Patriots their three wins in the big game; let’s not forget that in the equation either!

  20. When will sports writers learn that every game plan and play call is situational for the Pats.

    The Titans were focused on covering Welker, given his past productivity – thus Brady was looking for his “favorite” receiver – the open man.

    Once you build up a 20 point lead, you run the ball more than you pass anyways – and the Patriots did exactly that.

    Beyond that, most fans have been predicting that this is the year Hernandez becomes the receiving leader for the Pats this season and his 6 catches suggest that may be the case.

    Welker will still get plenty of catches – but it may not be the 120 he’s used to. That may impact his ability to earn top dollar as a free agent next season, but that’s the way the football bounces.

  21. It’s been said many times already, but I would have to agree with most that one game means nothing. It was nice seeing our running game be successful and I believe Welker is ABSOLUTELY still going to be a huge part of the Pats offense. Its because of him underneath and on short routes that Gronk and Hernandez are such great weapons. And will also open up Lloyd downfield. Excited for this year. Btw, does anyone else love how the defense was flying around yesterday? Alot of great young talent. Praying we stay healthy

  22. Or maybe, just maybe Brady’s favorite reciever – THE OPEN MAN – wasn’t Welker yesterday.

    Brady has said time and time again his favorite reciever is the open one. Everyone knows that Welker seems to get open more often than not, but maybe Welker was covered so well he was not open.

    Stop trying to make a story where there is none.

  23. neelymessier says:
    Sep 10, 2012 11:35 AM
    Welker is the one holding out for a large contract. He created bad blood in the process. He waited til the last minute to accept the franchise tag. Brady’s tenure will depend on his performance and contract demands. I don’t see him getting a Peyton contract from the Pats when he’s 37.


    Welker was one of the first in league to sign his franchise tender. He didn’t hold out at all. He signed so quickly that he gave up any leverage he had for a long term deal.

  24. I think people are reading way too much into this. It could be true they are going to ship him off but it’s the first game of the season. What BB does is change up game plans every week. The week the opponent teams figures Welker is a “non-factor” Welker will have 10 plus cat he’s for 100 plus yards. They have so many options, different game pla. Every week.

  25. This is old news. The writing was on the wall this summer. Everyone knows the Patriots do not pay players after age 30 except Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork. Ask Willie McGinist, Richard Seymour and now add Wes Welker. Wes was a good little foot soldier in his time in New England but it will be over at the end of this season.

  26. uh, McGinnest played with New England well into his 30’s.

    Also all I remember a few years back was all these people talking about how old the Patriots are every year…….now claims that they dont pay anyone over 30?

  27. He got drilled in the facemask and didn’t even get his hands on the ball. Of course he came out of the game! 1st game of many though. No need to sweat over playing time.

  28. 43 of 67 snaps isn’t exactly being left out vof a game. He’ll be there when needed. Tom has some new toys, let him play with them a little, they always go back to their favorite and reliable ones eventually. If media would just give it a break and quit over analyzing everything.

  29. Some good points by fellow Pats fans. I just want to add one thing: have there been any games since 2007 where if we knew WW had only 3 catches, the Pats would have won the game? Nope. But they did yesterday…very encouraging. I love WW to pieces and hope he finishes his career as a Patriot, but the team doing what it takes to win is the most important thing.

  30. I could see Wes getting traded this year. If Lloyd would caught the first pass thrown to him it would have been the play of the weekend. I believe Lloyd is a little bit of a better option for Tom, and the way Wes handled the contract dispute, I could see him getting shipped for a low 1st, high 2nd pick or player.

  31. Pats are so dirty to their players in contract years. This is clearly them tempering his stats before his fa. They’ve done this year in and year out with their players. It’s a biz, I know, but still so dirty.

  32. “Pats are so dirty to their players in contract years. This is clearly them tempering his stats before his fa.”

    That makes sense. The Pats give him a $9.5M just to not use him and teach him a lesson. Great way to run a business. ?!?

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