Commentary

Welker making sizable contributions for Patriots

Wes Welker is small in stature, but he had a huge impact for the Patriots in their convincing victory over the Cowboys, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: October 14, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Miami Dolphins thought the New England Patriots were crazy when they signed wide receiver Wes Welker, then a restricted free agent, at the cost of a second-round draft choice. They thought the Patriots were even wackier when New England avoided the seven-day waiting period by throwing in an extra seventh-round choice to facilitate the deal faster.

Well, the Dolphins are 0-6, and Welker is one of the reasons the Patriots are 6-0 and Tom Brady is on pace to throw 56 touchdown passes this season.

Brady has one rule for his receivers. He meets with them Saturday night before each game and tells them he will get them the ball if they get open. Welker, 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, is an undersized slot receiver. He barely runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash. But all he does is get open.

Welker got open enough to catch 11 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 48-27 destruction of the Dallas Cowboys.

Wes Welker
Tim Heitman/US PresswireWes Welker (11 catches vs. Dallas) has emerged as one of Tom Brady's main targets.

"On one of his touchdowns, they double-covered him," Brady said. "He split the defenders and ran right by them. He's a threat anytime he's out there. He's elusive. He's very quick. He's very smart, and he makes a lot of guys miss."

Welker plays the game like Wayne Chrebet did with the New York Jets. He works the slot like Brandon Stokley did with the Indianapolis Colts. Although he isn't tall, he's shifty. He twists his body, and he gets open.

He has 38 catches -- two fewer than Randy Moss -- for 386 yards and three touchdowns. His elusive moves are on display when he returns punts. Although he's slow, he gets open.

"There's some different things that we are able to do and there are some routes that get me open," Welker said. "We just have some underneath stuff, and when we are able to stretch the play out, there's some room for me to move.''

Brady tried several deep routes to Moss and others Sunday, which opened up room for Welker to work his magic. He split the defense and double coverage for a 35-yard touchdown late in the first quarter to put the Patriots ahead 14-0. He slipped by a zone coverage for a 12-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Welker didn't say it was the best game of his career, but he felt good about making big plays at crucial times. Even though there is so much talent around him, Welker knows he'll see plenty of passes thrown his way if he's able to get open.

"With Randy out there, they're going to pay a lot attention to him,'' Welker said. "Donte' Stallworth, Ben Watson and the rest of us really have to do well to get open for Tom Brady."

Watson hurt an ankle in the second quarter on what was nearly a horse-collar tackle by Cowboys safety Roy Williams. No problem. Welker stepped in. He was open.

For second- and seventh-round choices, the Patriots think they got a bargain.

John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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