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Are Patriots division rivals celebrating the departure of Wes Welker?

Posted by Erik Frenz  March 15, 2013 08:00 AM

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Wes Welker has done some serious damage to the Patriots division rivals since joining the team in 2007.

So it's easy to understand why some fans of opposing teams might be relieved.

welker v afc east.pngStats don't tell the whole story, but they almost always tell part of the story. Welker's story was a Stephen King nightmare for the rest of the AFC East. He was a good player against any opponent, but he always did his best work in the six games a year that mattered most.

He had some of his best individual games against those teams, too:

  • He had the best game of his career (at the point) in a 31-14 win over the Jets in 2009, in which he had 15 catches for 192 yards.
  • He then surpassed those totals with the best game of his career to date in a 34-31 loss to the Bills in 2011, in which he had 16 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
  • He had 24.8 yards per reception in a 30-21 win over the Jets in 2011, marking the highest single-game average of his Patriots career.
  • Welker has had 28 career games with over 100 receiving yards, and had 11 of those games against AFC East opponents.

Welker knew how to stick it in the face of the AFC East, and now, the rest of the AFC East has a chance to stick it in the face of the Patriots.

But they mostly know better, at this point, because the Patriots still have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick.

Bleacher Report Bills featured columnist Chris Trapasso thinks the Patriots will keep chugging along, but notes that Welker's chemistry with Brady could be missed.

Without question, he was the deadliest offensive weapon in the AFC East since he joined the Patriots in 2007, and the rapport he formulated with Tom Brady was almost supernatural. As long as Brady's under center, the Patriots will field a high-efficiency offense, but on occasion, they'll miss Welker. The rest of the AFC East most certainly won't.

Brady has had that synergy with few other receivers in the past—Troy Brown and Deion Branch are the only ones that come close—but those players came and went and were replaced with new options. The Patriots are thinking ahead, not backward.

That's why Chris Gross of TurnOnTheJets.com sees things similarly to the Patriots, looking back not at what Welker has been to the Patriots over the past six years, but rather what he was before he joined the Patriots.

Some view this move as vilified and classless by the organization, but the Patriots made the right decision. Contractual terms aside, New England injected youth and longevity to the slot wide receiver position. While some will argue that Amendola is no Welker, it is important to remember that Welker certainly was not the Welker we know today prior to his trade to the Patriots in 2007.

Some will look to criticize this move, because Amendola does not have the chemistry nor pedigree to provide an upgrade over Welker. But the fact of the matter is, barring injury, New England got younger, faster, and more explosive at the position.

welker amendola pre-patriots.pngIndeed, the Patriots probably see in Amendola now a lot of what they saw in Welker six years ago.

Prior to joining the Patriots, Welker's most productive year came in 2006, when he caught 67 balls for 687 yards and a touchdown. Amendola caught a career-high 85 balls for 689 yards and three touchdowns from Sam Bradford in 2010.

Indeed, Amendola's pre-Patriots resumé is a bit better than Welker's.

ProFootballFocus.com editor and Dolphins fan Alex Miglio has seen this show before, and thinks the Patriots could be better off for the move.

Wes Welker's departure is a bittersweet thing from a Dolphins perspective. On one hand, Welker has been an integral part of a Patriots offense that has killed Miami over the years. On the other, Danny Amendola might be an even bigger nightmare. The Broncos look even scarier now, as do the Patriots if Danny Amendola can stay healthy. There really are no winners in the AFC East because of Welker's departure.

Alex touched on what's been one of the key sticking points. Welker: ultra durable. Amendola: not so much.

Not over the past two seasons, in which Amendola has missed 20 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons, but before that, he was relatively healthy. What happened to make him miss so much time?

Freak accidents, mainly.

Take, for example, the ugly dislocated elbow in Week 1 of the 2011 season (not for the faint of heart).

So that, understandably, accounts for 15 games missed.

Amendola missed another three games when he fell with all his weight on his right shoulder, which resulted in a dislocated clavicle that could have been life-threatening with its proximity to the heart, aorta and other vital organs.

Freak accidents happen (hello, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski) and two of them have happened to Amendola.

He may be a more physically talented receiver than Welker, but the question is not only whether Amendola can stay healthy, but also whether he can get on the same page with Brady, as so many other free agent wide receivers have failed to do in the past.

The Patriots are conducting a risky chemistry experiment by moving on from Welker to Amendola.

Will it blow up in their face? Only time will tell. That will be answered with Amendola's health and the continued success, or sudden struggles, of the Patriots offense.

Meanwhile, the "In Belichick We Trust" mantra will never be tested quite like it will be with this move.


This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Erik Frenz delivers analysis of the biggest news with the Patriots, including insight into the AFC East and New England's biggest rivals from a Patriots perspective. Erik is an interactive writer who engages his audience in his posts’ comments sections and on Twitter. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and ask questions. More »

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