Are the Patriots Moving Away From Welker?

Are the Pats moving away from Welker?

9/10/12 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Aug 9, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) warms up before the start of the preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIREPatriots' wide receiver Wes Welker had a very, well, non-Welker type game yesterday, recording only three catches for 14 yards. Welker not only produced less than usual, but he played less than usual. Though he played 89.2% of the Patriots' snaps last season and saw an average of 10.7 targets per game, Welker only played 43 of the 67 (64.2%) snaps on Sunday, seeing only five targets. Backup slot receiver Julian Edelman saw more action than he is accustomed to, playing 23 snaps. Both Patriot tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez) played in all 67 snaps, while wide receiver Brandon Lloyd played 57.

A lot of people, I'm sure, will chalk this up to the Patriots receiving core being deeper than it has in the past, but I'm not buying it. Welker racked up a league leading 122 catches last season playing along side the elite tight end duo. The addition of Brandon Lloyd is similar to Randy Moss, and Welker led the league with 123 catches the last time he spent a full season with the all-time great deep threat.

Sure, it's reasonable to expect a dip in production when there are more options to throw to, but Welker has put up exceptional numbers playing alongside elite options in the past. I still expect him to be around the century mark in catches (assuming he plays most of the snaps), but that won't be possible seeing only five targets per game.

Maybe Welker is just being eased back into the offense for some reason, and will return to his normal snap count as the season progresses. What is certainly possible, however, is that the Patriots believe that the 31 year old slot receiver is wearing down. A low snap count could mean they are trying to preserve Welker, and the team wasn't willing to give him a long-term extension this offseason. The contract he signed in May is only a one-year deal.

Hopefully, Welker is just being eased into the year or played less than usual for some other reason, but if this low snap count continues, we may be forced to watch a Wes Welker with a small role rather than the league's most dominant short yardage receiver.
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