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Player in Focus: Wes Welker

Welker will now command the slot for the Patriots. (Courtesy of secretstosuccess.com)
Welker will now command the slot for the Patriots. (Courtesy of secretstosuccess.com)

In the last decade, one of the most recognizable sites patrolling the outside of the Patriots offensive scheme has been No. 80, Troy Brown.

In Brown (5’10″, 196 lbs.) the Patriots have had the epitome possession receiver, someone who will catch the ball in the flat and accumulate YAC (yards after catch) and make the tip toe catch on the sideline. With his career winding down, the Pats would have been foolish not to attempt to replace such a key element to their offensive scheme.

Enter Wes Welker, a wideout with a similar build (5’9″, 185 lbs.) and a similar repertoire. Welker, 26, played the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins. While not putting up gaudy overall numbers (96 catches, 1,121 yards in two seasons), Welker boasted a durable tenure with the Dolphins (playing in all 16 games in ’05 and ’06) and a freakishly similar yards per catch average (11.7) to Brown’s.

There’s no doubt that head coach Bill Belichick and his staff were partly sold on Welker because of what the agile receiver had done against the Pats in the past. Last October, Welker torched the Patriots for nine catches and 77 yards, and showed breakout ability while returning kicks during a Dolphins 21-0 win.

Welker and Rodney Harrison now just square off on the practice field. (Courtesy of msnbc.com)
Welker and Rodney Harrison now just square off on the practice field. (Courtesy of msnbc.com)

Welker could be viewed as a rich man’s Tim Dwight as he won’t blow you away with speed, but his route running from the slot and his quick cuts will give headaches to the safety or linebacker in charge of covering him.

Many forget that Welker was the first wide receiver acquisition of the off-season for the Patriots. After signing Donté Stallworth and trading for Randy Moss, Welker’s importance (and fantasy stock) soared because of the amount of weapons now at quarterback Tom Brady’s disposal.

Welker – along with tight end Benjamin Watson – will run wild underneath while Moss and Stallworth demand double coverage on the outside because of their big play ability. The Patriots have locked up Welker long term and while we don’t expect to see him on the defensive side of the ball like his counterpart Troy Brown, his value at WR and punt returner make Welker a perfect fit for the Pats.

2007 Prediction
Like most of the other off-season acquisitions, Welker will fit in perfectly to the offensive scheme. He’s Troy Brown a decade younger and his ability to catch at the sidelines molds perfectly with Tom Brady’s throwing style. Through just two pre-season games, it’s apparent he and Brady are already on the same page and their relationship should flourish. With names like Moss and Stallworth patrolling the deep and wide receiving lanes, it will be Welker who becomes the linchpin of the offense and will lead the team in catches in the 2007 season.

2007 Stats: 86 catches, 895 yards, six touchdowns

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