Wes Welker saw reduced playing time in the New England Patriots' season-opening 34-13 victory against Tennessee Sunday, indicating the wide receiver is no longer the focus of Tom Brady's passing attack.
The 5'9 receiver earned career highs in passing yards and receptions in 2011 out of the slot but was disappointed this offseason when the Patriots chose to use the one-year franchise tag on him rather than negotiating a long-term contract. Meanwhile, the team gave two of the largest contracts for tight ends ever to Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, assuring both would be with the club for some time. That emphasis on those two players showed Sunday: the pair split New England's two passing touchdowns and each played every single offensive snap, while Welker only played 43 of 67 offensive downs.
Welker only registered three catches for 14 yards and was replaced on the field at times by Julian Edelman, who had one catch for seven yards. Brandon Lloyd led all Patriots with 69 receiving yards and played 57 downs, the most of any wide receiver. It's clear the Patriots are enamored with their two-tight end set featuring two very talented pass catchers with size and blocking ability. It appears that combination could spell the end of Welker's turn as a Patriots' star.