Going through the game tape and charting plays explains Wes Welker's decrease in playing time during the past two weeks.
The only truly curious moment in the Titans game came when Welker lost a series to Julian Edelman in the first quarter. Otherwise, it seemed a lot of the commotion generated throughout the New England area was being made without proper perspective since many of the oddities were easily explained away.
That wasn't the case during Sunday's 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It's now clear that a shift is taking place and that Edelman, at least for now, is ahead of Welker on the depth chart.
Many people will look and see that Welker played 59 of 81 snaps and made five catches for 95 yards and wonder what all the commotion is about, but what's lost in those numbers is that Edelman played 75 snaps and Welker may not have been given the opportunity to make a meaningful impact if tight end Aaron Hernandez had not suffered what is suspected to be a high ankle sprain on the third play of the game.
Here are a few takeaways from this week's film review:
- There's no debating that Edelman is now considered the No. 2 receiver. The Patriots lined up in their two-receiver set 19 times against the Cardinals with Edelman and Brandon Lloyd on the field for 17 of those plays. Welker was used just twice. Those figures would have been reversed last year.
- Of the 22 plays Welker was off the field, 14 were runs, one was a spike and one play was whistled dead before it started. Last week against the Titans, Welker missed 24 plays (14 runs, two at the goal line, one kneel). It appears that the Patriots favor Edelman as a blocker.
- Last year, Welker played nearly 90 percent of New England's snaps. He was at 76, 73 and 75 percent in the three previous seasons. He played 73 percent of the snaps Sunday. From that perspective, it appears that everything is back to normal and there is nothing to worry about.
The problem with looking at things through that prism is that we don't know how Welker was going to be used Sunday. He was sidelined the first three plays until Hernandez was injured. Only then did he start taking on a bigger role.
It's possible that he would have taken Edelman's place in the two-receiver sets, but it's also possible that he would have spent more time on the sidelines if Hernandez wasn't injured. Moving forward, this is a moot point because Welker will likely fill some of Hernandez's role until the team returns to full strength, but this is officially now a storyline worth monitoring.