BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are 1-1, and the biggest story line of the young season so far has been the reduced role of Wes Welker in the offense.
Welker saw fewer snaps than normal in Week 1, catching three passes for just 14 yards. On Sunday against the Cardinals, he took more snaps with the offense, but still not as many as Julian Edelman. Welker finished with five catches and a team-leading 95 receiving yards, but as all of that came after the injury to tight end Aaron Hernandez, speculation still rages around New England about the Patriots possibly moving on from Welker being a key part of the offense.
While Welker said after the game that he’s 100 percent healthy, he admitted that missing a week in the preseason due to a death in the family may have put him behind in terms of knowing the playbook. On Monday afternoon, however, head coach Bill Belichick dispelled that notion.
“Wes has a lot of experience around here,” Belichick said. “I think he’s one of our smartest and obviously most experienced players. I don’t really see him behind.”
When asked specifically about why Edelman’s seen more of the field through the first two games than Welker, Belichick stated in typical Belichick fashion that it’s just a decision made for the best interests of the team.
“We have different combinations of personnel groups out there in every game, all the time, pretty much every week,” Belichick said. “That’s pretty much the way we run our offense and we have for quite a while. So the players that we have out there are the ones that we feel are best for that particular play, situation, however you want to look at it.
“Whatever is out there is what we feel is best for our team for that time, for that play, for that situation.”
Of course, there’s still something missing from the head coach’s explanation. ESPN’s Mike Reiss charted the number of plays for all players, and through two games, Julian Edelman has taken just eight fewer snaps than Welker. In those two games, Welker has two more receptions and 52 more yards than Edelman. And of course, Welker’s led the league in receptions since 2007 and has been Tom Brady’s most reliable target for some time.
While the injury to Hernandez almost certainly will mean Welker takes on an increased workload for the Patriots, the Welker story line will certainly live on … at least for another week.