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Ask PFW: Less of Wes

Wes Welker's diminished role in the offense is the focal point of this week's "Ask PFW" mailbag.


Are we witnessing Wes Welker getting phased out of the offense? I realize this is less likely now that Aaron Hernandez is hurt but are you seeing this too? Could we see Wes traded by Week 8?
J.C. Brinkks

This is obviously the question of the week but unfortunately it's one that none of us has the definitive answer to. I'm not exactly sure why Bill Belichick has opted to use Julian Edelman more in the slot than Welker, who in my opinion is still the much better option. Edelman had a solid camp and earned some chance to contribute on offense, but not at Welker's expense. I know a lot of folks have toss around the idea of Welker's contract being part of the reason – that he's being punished by Belichick for not agreeing to a long-term deal. I don't see this as being a possibility. Belichick always says he does what he believes is best for the football team, so not using a player based on anything other than football reasons would not make sense. Welker missed a lot of time during the preseason while dealing with a personal issue, and perhaps that's the reason for his lack of playing time early on. But to say one way or another if this is an indication that he is being phased out of the offense is impossible right now. However I will say this: Welker is in the final year of his deal and the two tight ends (before Hernandez was injured) are now locked up long term. It makes perfect business and football sense to feature them in the passing game. But based on what I've seen it doesn't make sense to feature Brandon Lloyd or Edelman ahead of Welker, and that's what's happened in the first two games. While I'd never expect a trade, I wouldn't be surprised to see a deal of Welker at the deadline based on this early trend.
Paul Perillo

The loss to Arizona does not concern me. It's early in the season, and the Patriots need to work on some things. The defense is also playing well. Great. But what I am most confused about is the WR position. Before the season started, we had 11 talented or potential stars in training camp. It looked like we would have the deepest WR core in the league. Now Hernandez goes down and our offense sputters. Why is Julian Edelman a better option than Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney or Donte' Stallworth? Why, with one injury, does our offense all of a sudden look lost? I understand Belichick is a good coach, but every year these poor personnel decisions seem to creep up.
Pat S.

Continuing with our theme from the first question, the wide receiver spot is interesting. But I'm not sure I get this particularly slant of the situation. Welker was the hot topic after not playing much in the early going and now people are wondering where the depth is at receiver. Well, I'm not sure depth is a problem when Welker isn't playing as much as people would like. So asking if Branch or Stallworth or Gaffney would be a better option than Edelman isn't really the point. Would Welker be a better option? In my opinion, as I said above, is yes. Either way there would be a guy not really playing much on offense (again, before Hernandez got hurt). So adding one of the thee veterans that got cut doesn't do much to alleviate the problem since Lloyd would continue in his role on the outside while they would likely sit. I think the Welker situation is curious but I do not think having any of those three veterans around would make me feel better about the offense.
Paul Perillo

Has Stephen Gostkowski ever made a game winning, end of the game, clutch kick?
Bella Rose

Gostkowski hasn't made many game-winning kicks in his career but that's only because he hasn't had many opportunities to do so. He made his only career overtime attempt (from 35 yards) in 2010 to beat Baltimore, and he also nailed a 31-yarder in San Diego with 1:10 left to break a tie in the 2006 divisional playoffs as a rookie. But he simply hasn't had many chances to do what he couldn't do against the Cardinals – deliver a last-second kick with his team trailing. But I would also add that Gostkowski had made 36 consecutive fourth-quarter field goals before that miss. So, let's call it what it was – one missed kick.
Paul Perillo


Umm … was I the only person screaming at my TV for the Patriots to use their no huddle offense in the second half? It is a huge weapon for them and is almost always a way to get them into a rhythm. I don't get it. Please explain.
Jesse M.

I don't know, I was watching from the press box so I couldn't hear what people watching on TV were saying. But to tell the truth I didn't hear a lot of complaining about the lack of a no-huddle as much as I did about the play calling. And the Patriots actually did use the no huddle on their first drive of the second half and picked up a field goal before using it almost exclusively in the fourth quarter when they were obviously trying to make the comeback. Rather than the no huddle I thought the team used some curious play calls on third downs, running the ball a bit too much rather than sticking with the team's bread and butter – the short passing game. But losing Hernandez may have had a role in that as well. Overall, the Cardinals game was not a good one for the offense but it was just one game. Let's not panic yet.
Paul Perillo

The Patriots have a potential Super Bowl team but the weird roster management/playing time has me puzzled beyond belief. Do you think BB is stubborn enough that he'll make a point not to bring in Brian Waters (assuming it's a salary standoff)? And for all the wisdom of BB, can't he see that Wes Welker is more important to Brady than he realizes (like Branch during his SB MVP season)? Is it possible that one/some of the coaches' egos are getting in the way and they're really NOT doing what is best for the team?
Wayne Y.

I completely disagree with this entire premise. Belichick's ego has nothing to do with the specific things you're talking about. Belichick's ego didn't keep Brian Waters home all offseason and through the preseason. Waters said after the Super Bowl that he was thinking about retiring. Well, he was obviously unsure if he wanted to keep playing and has yet to change his mind. Maybe he'll be back, but either way Belichick's ego has nothing to do with that. I do agree with you that Welker should be getting more action but we've already discussed that. I just don't think it's all about Belichick's ego – unless we're talking about trying to win football games.
Paul Perillo

Can we all agree we're going 1-15 this year? Along the way, though, how good does that defense look? Ok, they're not playing Denver/GB/NYJ...wait...but still. I think that Arizona team is pretty good. Chandler Jones is the guy we've all been waiting for and Tavon Wilson and Dont'a Hightower look like long-term contributors/playmakers (maybe). I feel like this team always loses a game it shouldn't and it seems like from Kyle Arrington's comments that maybe guys were looking ahead to the Baltimore game (maybe they overlooked the Eagles as well). All this rambling is to say I'm looking forward to seeing how this team moves forward.
Pascal Rawls-Philippe

Well the defense has gotten off to a great start, no question about that. But in fairness we can't just gloss over the opponents it has faced. Tennessee and Arizona are terrible offensively and looked that way against the other team they played as well. The Titans were completely shut down by the Chargers in Week 2 while the Seahawks held the Cardinals in check in Week 1. So, I don't want to get carried away with what we've seen. That said, Jones looks like a star in the making. His athleticism is apparent on almost every play, and Hightower is a definite impact player as well. I haven't seen much from Wilson but he also hasn't been caught out of position too often either. The two turnovers he was involved in didn't have much to do with him, but he was able to take advantage of the situation each time. I don't think there is such a thing as a good loss and even if I did it certainly wouldn't include dropping a home game against an inferior opponent. But defensively there are many reasons to be optimistic.
Paul Perillo

Why did The Patriots let Fox broadcast yesterday's game? Fox blacked out the game in Connecticut. We never got to see it. Or, did the Patriots want it blacked out 80 miles away from Gillette?
Mary Eames

The Patriots and the other teams don't determine which network airs each game. That's part of the broadcast packages that the league signs with the networks. Basically, anytime the Patriots play against an AFC opponent or on the road against an NFC team, and the game is not in prime time, then it airs on CBS. If it's against an NFC team at home – like the Cardinals game – then it's on Fox. Monday night games are on ESPN while Sunday night games are on NBC. NFL Network also airs games on Thursday nights – except for Thanksgiving night, which is shown on NBC.
Paul Perillo

It's still early in the season and the mood changes from week to week. But the offensive line has shown that it is the concern that it was thought to be. To what extent do you attribute the problems to coaching? I know that Dante Scarnecchia has been with the Pats forever, but it just seems that the line looks out of sync and clueless at times. To top it off, they still get no push in short-yardage situations. If Brady doesn't learn how to scramble, I'm concerned that he is not going to last the season without a serious injury.
Gary Goldstein

In a word, zero. I think the Patriots concerns along the offensive line have zero to do with coaching, or Scarnecchia specifically. That said, things have to get better. Brady has experienced some pressure so far and we know his days as a scrambler are long since gone. He doesn't move anywhere near as well in the pocket as he used to and having to deal with rushers – especially up the middle – is tough on him. I do think the run blocking has been pretty good, however, despite a few negative plays against Arizona. Look, it's still early in the season and teams always evolve over time. Let's give this group a chance to come together before we start irrationally pointing to the coach.
Paul Perillo


The end of the day stats won't show it, but I feel like we ran too much when it was ineffective. I get it opened up the play action pass, but it seemed that in too many important downs we went with a run instead of passing the ball. Also, it seems like they didn't use the shotgun spread passing attack until way late in the game. Tough loss but now it's on to Baltimore.
Michael Maxey

I agree with the curious play calling. Too many third-down runs and too little of Welker working out of the slot. But to be fair, no one was complaining about either of these factors after the Tennessee game when the Patriots ran for 162 yards and Welker was even less involved offensively. So, like we said earlier, let's chalk this up to one bad game and assume things will look better in the future when things are clicking more regularly.
Paul Perillo

My biggest concern about our promising Patriots is depth at O Line. Why not trade Wes Welker while he is at the pinnacle of his value for a Pro Bowl offensive lineman proven performer and a punter? I love Wes but Julian Edelman is a clone. Tom Brady needs shored up protection. No?
Jim Gibbons

Uh, no. Why do we need a punter exactly? And we want to trade Welker for an offensive lineman? What type of quality player do you think you'll be able to acquire at this point of the season? If there is a proven protector out there why would a team trade him? It wouldn't make any sense. And, why do we need a punter again?? Not sure I understand this one, Jim.
Paul Perillo

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