Welker was a backup plan vs. Cardinals

Welker was a backup plan vs. Cardinals
September 17, 2012, 1:58 am
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By Tom E. CurranFOXBORO - Wes Welker seems mystified. Rare is the time in his six seasons here that he's not a big part of the game plan. But that seemed to be the case Sunday as Welker began the game on the sidelines and seemed to be destined to stay there awhile until Aaron Hernandez got hurt. Last week, when Welker played 43 plays and Julian Edelman played 23, it seemed a case of Josh McDaniels merely showing a lot of different personnel to show the Titans and upcoming opponents more to prepare for. This week, Edelman played 75 snaps and Welker played 63 according to Mike Reiss at ESPNBoston. Both players caught five passes but Welker was targeted 11 times and went for 90 yards while Edelman was targeted six times and went for 60. Both are good players and both have a role but it's apparent after two weeks that Edelman's reps are coming at the expense of Welker's time.Asked if he knew what his role would be going into the game, Welker said, "I never know. I always just prepare myself to be ready and when my number is called, I just try to go out there and make plays whenever I get an opportunity."Was he surprised to be a spectator so much so early?"You know, you want to be out there, I think as a competitor and everything else, especially on Sundays, its what we play for and what we work for and you want to be out there," he admitted. "At the same time, Coach felt like whatever was best for the team and Im for that and I totally understand that and Im just there to help out however I can."This is a story that's not going to go away because it's unusual to see a player who was so much a part of an offense - an effective part - have his role subjugated when there's been no major indication of slippage. We can look at some of the reasons why this may be the Patriots plan though. For one, Welker is on a one-year deal. If the Patriots are going to go in a different direction in 2013, do they want Edelman to be the replacement? Are they trying to see what he does with increased reps? It's easier to give him those reps early in the year than go with Welker early and then, even if Welker is still performing at a high level, take those reps and give them to Edelman. Is it merely a case of Edelman having earned these reps in the offseason and at training camp? He was extremely impressive in camp, and he did spend a lot of time in the offseason practicing with Tom Brady in California. Or is the offense under Josh McDaniels becoming more geared toward Brandon Lloyd, a player McDaniels brought with him, a player targeted 13 times on Sunday?All this will have to play out as the season goes, but the fact remains that, on Sunday, the offense sputtered in a fashion we haven't seen in quite some time. And Welker was ultimately part of the solution when the Patriots finally scored a touchdown, not the problem. Caught in the awkward spot between two players vying for time and targets is Brady. Asked about Edelman, Brady seemed to indicate Edelman's time has been earned, nothing more, nothing less. "Julian has been very consistent over the course of the entire season, so hes getting opportunities to be out there and make certain plays and I have to find ways to continue to get those guys the ball," said Brady. We have a good group at receiver, a good group of tight ends. We hopefully have a better offense than the way we played today; we just didnt play consistently."Asked about Welker, Brady said, "He's a phenomenal player and when he makes plays, it really sparks our whole offense and he made a bunch of them today. Thats what we need. We just have to do a little bit more to get the ball in the end zone."Finally, he was asked about Edelman being ahead of Welker on the depth chart. "Like I said, those guys rotate a lot, so there are plays that Julian is in there for; there are a lot of plays that Wes is in there for," Brady explained. "I love both those guys and they both work really hard. That's always Coachs decision; whos out there, thats not really my decision."There'll be more decisions made this week as the Patriots head to Baltimore to play the Ravens, also 1-1, on Sunday Night Football. We may find out quite a bit about what the plan for this offense is.