We're just one game into the 2012 NFL season and the "what's up with Wes Welker?" questions are already being asked. That's the nature of playing for one of the league's most scrutinized teams in one of the nation's most scrutinized media markets. But here's the deal: Welker's three-catch, 14-yard performance against the Titans was more anomaly than harbinger of things to come. We know this because offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said as much on Tuesday.
"I think the game plan each week is really different," he said via ESPNBoston.com. "We definitely had some personnel groupings, I don’t know how many exact number of snaps, but we played quite a few snaps of three tight ends in the game at the same time. Then we played some two tight ends with two running backs in the game at the same time. Each week, we try to make the decision on what groupings or what personnel matchups may give us, whether it’s an advantage or not, we don’t know. But we maybe try to quiet the game down a little bit or take advantage of a situation we think we can take advantage of. We kind of decide those on a week-to-week basis."
Put another way: McDaniels game plans against the opponent's personnel and scheme, which means that playing time could vary from one week to the next for every skill position player not named Tom Brady. So, no, Welker's role hasn't suddenly changed.
"Certainly Wes had some opportunities in the game and made the most of a few of those," McDaniels continued. "Then we had some other opportunities we didn’t quite hit. Wes’ role is the same as we’ve always gone. We’ll go each week and try to do what we think is best to help us win. Sometimes that may include playing more multiple tight ends. Sometimes it might be playing a lot more receivers. We kind of try to feel that out as we go through our preparation and then make the decisions that go along with it."
With that mystery solved, we can move on to more pressing matters -- like this nugget from Wednesday's Boston Globe comparing Welker's career in New England with that of one of the all-time greats, Troy Brown. Consider this: Brown had 577 catches for 6,366 yards (11.4 YPC) and 31 TDs. Welker? He has 557 catches for 6,119 yards (11 YPC) and … 31 TDs. The difference? Brown needed 192 games while Welker accomplished in 78.
So, yes, maybe Welker is still an important cog in the Pats' offense.