Welker's role sparks more debate

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
9:15
AM ET
Wes Welker's role in the Patriots' offense has generated debate in recent days, mainly because it was a surprise to see Julian Edelman playing more than Welker in Sunday's home-opening loss to the Cardinals (75 snaps for Edelman, 63 for Welker).

Boston Globe columnist Christopher Gasper opines on the topic today, and the headline of the piece reads, "Wes Welker strategy is unfathomable." Gasper makes the point that the makeup of the base offense, with two tight ends, isn't much different from 2011 when Welker logged a heavy playing time total.

On NFL Network's "Total Access" show Wednesday, analyst Michael Lombardi provided his take on the situation (link here). Lombardi doesn't see Welker being phased out as much as returning to the role that the Patriots originally intended for him.

"I think what you remember about Wes Welker, when he first came to New England, he was a slot receiver. He came on when they went to three receivers," Lombardi said on the program. "That's where Wes Welker is at his best and that's where he'll be utilized -- the slot receiver in terms of a three-receiver set.

"What New England has become is a two-tight end, two outside receiver team, especially when Aaron Hernandez was playing, and that doesn't really fit what Wes Welker does right now. That's why his playtime is coming down a little bit.

"...The Patriots have made a commitment to be in this '12 personnel' -- one back, two tight ends -- and they need somebody with some skills on the outside who can be big. They want to run the football, and they want to utilize the inside of the field [with tight ends] and that formation does. Now Welker is going to have a role. He's certainly going to be a productive player, but ... Julian Edelman is a better outside receiver, right now, than Wes Welker is."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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