Don't count out the Pats because of Welker injury
Today, Patriots QB Tom Brady commented on the knee injury to receiver Wes Welker that will force New England to head into the postseason without its leading receiver.
Sure, there was the standard comment that we would expect from a QB on how the team “can’t replace” a guy like Welker, and I understand that. There is no chance that this offense is as productive with Julian Edelman in Welker’s spot come this weekend. Yes, Edelman will be able to play within the system, but it is the effect Welker has on the open field and within the various route combinations that the Patriots run that not only make Brady successful, but allows the offense to generate points.
Now there was one thing that did stick out to me from Brady’s comments that makes sense from my perspective when it comes to New England.
Brady told WEEI in Boston, "We're going to evolve a little bit as an offense now. It was a very Wes Welker-oriented offense. Maybe part of the advantage is Baltimore doesn't really know what they're going to see from us now. We're going to have shift focus and they're really not sure where that focus is going to go. In some ways that's an advantage for us. There's a lot of things we've done with Wes that we don't do with anybody else. We're going to find other areas to exploit and use the talents of Julian and Sam [Aiken] and Randy and Chris Baker and Kevin [Faulk] and Laurence [Maroney] and Fred [Taylor] and Sammy [Morris], ands all those other really great players we have on offense to be able to move the ball."
Yes, we can look at this as Brady playing the political role of an NFL QB, but the reason the Patriots have been so successful during Brady’s career on offense is their ability to game plan and to scheme in a variety of ways to move the football and to score points. I have written about it before at the NFP, and unlike a team like Indy that is pretty basic when it comes to personnel and formations on offense, the Pats can beat you by using multiple personnel groupings and multiple formations.
Think about it: New England runs their empty sets, their three-wide receivers sets, their heavy sets, and in those personnel groupings, they use the bunch formations, their stack formations and route combinations designed to get players the ball in the open field.
And, if I am the Ravens — the Pats’ opponent on wild-card weekend — I don’t know what to expect from New England this weekend. Do they come out in their jumbo sets (3 TE, 1 WR, 1 RB) and run the football with Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris? Or do we see the Pats use their Zebra personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) and line up in an empty set?
Yes, the loss of Welker is not good from a production standpoint, but don’t count the Pats out just because of it. They will be prepared from a game plan perspective on Sunday and I think we will all see New England shuffling personnel in and out of the game to confuse and attack the Baltimore defense — until they find a weakness. And, once they do, they will continue to work the ball down the field in that exact personnel grouping until the Ravens prove they can stop it.
And, because of that, don’t sell the Patriots just yet because of Welker’s injury. Brady, Moss and the running game of New England will be ready to play.
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