Senior NFL Columnist

After Further Review: Watching the wonder of Welker


New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker is on pace for 160 receptions, which would be an NFL record.

He's also on pace for 2,464 yards, which would also be a league record.

So how does he do it? How does a player who isn't a burner and isn't big in size make it all happen?

It helps that he plays with Tom Brady.

It also helps that he's an amazing route runner with the smarts to adjust to any type of coverage.

I wanted to find out if there were any secrets to how the Patriots get Welker open. So I studied the Oakland game and evaluated his nine catches to see how they got him free.

Are there tendencies? Not many. I will say this, he looks much more comfortable lining up on the left side of the formation. Having said that, he made plays from the right side as well.

Here's a breakdown of his nine catches against the Raiders, including where he lined up, the coverage he faced and the yards he gained.

1. Lined up in the left slot. Faced man coverage and beat the coverage with a quick out that turned into a 15-yard touchdown catch.

2. Motioned out of the backfield to the left side of the formation and against zone coverage turned a short pass in the left flat into a 24-yard gain by running after the catch. This was pure effort.

3. Lined up wide on the left side of the formation against man coverage. Ran a go route for a 21-yard gain.

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4. Lined up in the right slot inside a tight end and a receiver. Ran deep corner route against zone coverage for a 32-yard gain.

5. Motioned to the left side slot. Ran a bubble screen that was a short gain for 4 yards.

6. Started in motion on the right side, stayed there in the slot, and ran a crossing route for a 9-yard gain.

7. Motioned from outside to the right slot inside a receiver. Ran a deep out against a zone for a 19-yard gain.

8. Lined up left outside a tight end and a receiver. Against a zone, ran a short curl for 9 yards.

9. Lined up in the slot to the right side inside Chad Ochocinco. Ran a deep cross to the middle of the field against zone coverage and gained 28 yards.

Zone? Man? Left? Right?

It didn't matter.

Most of the time, Welker does line up in the slot, more on the left than the right. When he does line up wide, not in the slot, it was usually a running play. But that's about it for keys about where he lines up.

The Jets might stick Darrelle Revis on him Sunday. They would be wise to give him some help. Welker is too good a route runner and his route combinations are so varied and he's so quick that I don't think one man can stick with him -- especially with the way Brady is throwing the football.

Welker might be up to a visit to Revis Island. Teams haven't thrown at Revis much. But with Welker, you know the Patriots will.

Film Study (10 things on the tape I saw that you didn't)

1. The Texans' offensive line is playing at a high level. In years past, right tackle Eric Winston was the class of that group. But center Chris Myers had a nice game against the Steelers. His ability to get nose tackle Casey Hampton moving, and then taking him out of the play using Hampton's momentum, was a big reason why Arian Foster ran wild on the Steelers. Myers isn't a powerful center, but he's perfect for the Texans' zone-blocking scheme.

2. The Jaguars took defensive tackle Tyson Alualu at 10th in the 2010 draft. He played well as a rookie, but he played on an injured knee. The word is he had a torn PCL. He worked through it, had a nice rookie season, but it's clear in watching the tape this season that the knee is bothering him. Alualu makes a good play and then seems to follow by getting buckled while trying to hold the point or push off for his pass rush. He isn't as explosive as the team expected.

3. New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams loves throwing a lot of looks at rookie quarterbacks. After doing it to Blaine Gabbert last week, expect more of the same against Cam Newton this week. Gabbert's only interception came when the Saints fooled him. They showed a man-under scheme, but before the snap bailed into zone coverage with trap coverage underneath. Gabbert fell into the trap and was picked off by corner Patrick Robinson, who bailed at the snap. Look for the Saints to do a lot of that against Newton, who has been fooled some in the first four games, despite his early success.

4. If you watched the tape of the Cowboys-Lions game, you would never know Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was considered the top player at his position. He was handled much of the game. The Cowboys appeared to use his aggressive style against him. They let him rush up the field, and then took him out of the play with his own momentum. On one second-quarter run by Felix Jones, right guard Kyle Kosier handled Suh in man blocking and pushed him out of the hole for a big gain. He got the dreaded "turtle" -- on his back flopping around -- on a run late in the second quarter. Suh's aggressive style is something that can be used against him, and look for more teams to do it.

5. Sometimes when we think Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell is ready to turn the corner, we see him make a throw in a key situation like he did against the Patriots last Sunday. Trailing 14-10, the Raiders had a chance to take the lead. Faced with a second-and-goal from the New England 6, Campbell dropped to throw. A three-man rush by the Pats provided no pressure. He stepped up, still with nobody near him, and promptly fired an interception into the stomach of Patriots safety Patrick Chung in the end zone. There wasn't a Raiders player within 10 yards. That type of throw is something that has held Campbell back his entire career.

6. New England cut former first-round pick Brandon Meriweather this summer because he struggled in coverage. The Chicago Bears signed him and now they are finding that out as well. He also missed tackles in the run game against the Panthers on Sunday. On a long first-quarter completion from Cam Newton to Steve Smith, Meriweather drifted inside and wasn't within 5 yards of Smith when he caught the ball. Merwieather was playing for the injured Chris Harris. The Bears better hope Harris gets healthy quickly.

7. I keep hearing age is a big issue with the Steelers defense. I see something else. They aren't tackling. The Steelers have always been a good tackling team, but I saw them miss a lot of tackles against the Texans. On Foster's game-winning touchdown run, safety Troy Polamalu took a horrible angle and whiffed as Foster ran in for the winning score. Polamalu did bounce back to make a couple of nice plays, and he isn't alone in the missed tackles. The Steelers are known for putting runners down quickly. Not this group.

8. One of the players Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is thrilled to have on his defense is end Stephen Bowen. While outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are getting a lot of attention, Bowen isn't. He should be. He had a sack against the Rams, but his play against the run and getting inside pressure were keys in limiting the Rams to 172 yards of offense. He flashed last year with the Cowboys, but he might be even better now.

9. Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali put on a show against the Vikings. He was all over the field. He lined up on the left side and the right side and terrorized whoever he faced. Hali had two sacks, but he spent the day in the backfield pressuring Donovan McNabb. Nobody could block him. On one play, the Vikings tried to handle him with H-back Jimmy Kleinsasser and Hali went right over him for a sack.

10. The Cowboys used a weird punt formation against the Lions. Not counting the wide guys, they had five players lined up to the right of the center and two to the left. They then punted the ball to the right side. Nothing major. Just weird.

Hot Tub (Five guys playing well)

1. Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: Four touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. Does it get any better?

2. Cowboys LB Sean Lee: He has been one of the better inside linebackers in the league so far this season.

3. Panthers WR Steve Smith: Is he happy Cam Newton is under center or because Rob Chudzinski is the new offensive coordinator?

4. Bears RB Matt Forte: He rushed for 202 yards and did it with some one-cut runs that were decisive moves.

5. Saints TE Jimmy Graham: His 10 catches vs. the Jaguars might be the start of what he can do. He has star potential.

Cold Tub

1. Rams OT Rodger Saffold: He is a rising player at the position, but he had a tough go of it against Brian Orakpo, who beat him with speed and power. He gave up four sacks Sunday.

2. Dolphins LB Jason Taylor: He started for the injured Koa Misi against the Chargers and did nothing. Marcus McNeil handled him. He danced a lot. Maybe he's ready for another dance TV show.

3. Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb: He just never seemed to look comfortable against the Giants. That's two so-so games in a row.

4. Bears RT Frank Omiyale: With Gabe Carimi hurt, Omiyale had to start. He just isn't up to it. Charles Johnson went right around him for a sack last week. He was benched in the second half.

5. 49ers RT Anthony Davis: The 2010 first-round pick had a rough go of it against league sack leader Jason Babin of the Eagles. Davis needs to step it up a bit.

Assistant coach who won't sleep this week

Falcons defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder has seen his unit struggle against the pass this season. They are ranked 24th in the league in pass defense. So now he gets to face Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and that high-scoring passing game. One of the reasons the Falcons signed defensive end Ray Edwards was for games like this. VanGorder has to hope Edwards can make an impact to help lessen the pressure on his struggling secondary.

Three and outs

Three college guys who could be the next Andre-Calvin Johnson

1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State: He will be the first receiver taken next spring.

2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame: He has some off-field issues, but on the field he's a beast. He has trimmed down and it has helped his quickness.

3. Jeff Fuller, Texas A&M: The son of former NFL defensive back Jeff Fuller gets the nod here over South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery because Jeffery doesn't run that well.

Leaders for coach of the year

1. Jim Schwartz, Lions: His team is 4-0. Who expected that?

2. Jim Harbaugh, 49ers: His team is 3-1 with Alex Smith. Nice job.

3. Chan Gailey, Bills: His team is 3-1 with a victory over New England -- and he has made the passing game a real threat.

Three unknowns you should know

1. Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins: He has been tough to block in the first four weeks of the season. He's fast, quick and strong and he's a big reason why the Bengals are the top-ranked unit in the league.

2. 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman: He has been all over the field playing next to Patrick Willis. In fact, he has more tackles after four games.

3. Raiders offensive tackle Jared Veldheer: Every time I watch him play, he gets better. He has really good feet in pass protection.

Tweet me

1. From: @Sports_RealTalk @PriscoCBS props on the #Chiefs pick, but didn't I tell you to not drink the #Bills Kool-Aid?

2. From: @FeelTheTeal: @realfreemancbs Happy Birthday @priscocbs. 51 years! You old sob!

3. From: @adammoore904 @PriscoCBS Please Please don't talk about the makes me quiver

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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