Rightfully so, the Patriots offense gets a lot of attention from fans and media. They're simply a well-oiled machine led by one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. However, all the talk about the Patriots offense too often begins and ends with the discussion of the two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Maybe it's because I don't watch ESPN (so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), but I haven't heard much about Wes Welker this week. Is it possible for someone that posted 122 catches and 1,569 yards to be underrated?
Covering Wes Welker has been near impossible for everyone in the NFL. The diminutive slot receiver has proven proficient at short and intermediate routes, and that allows for a high percentage of completions. This Sunday Wes Welker will once again play a huge role in the Patriots offense as Tom Brady's go-to receiver.
Naturally the next question becomes who will cover Wes Welker? This is an oversimplification since many players and schemes will be used to stop Wes Welker and the rest of the Patriots offense, however let's take a look at the options the Titans have at their disposal.
First we'll begin with the regular candidates. Jason McCourty is the team's best cover corner and he'll be lined up against several different Pats this week. If Welker lines up outside, the obvious move will be to have McCourty facing him. That would be a great battle to watch, but it's likely to occur infrequently.
Welker much more commonly lines up in the slot. Depending on the formation, you'll see many different players opposite #83. The third cornerback on the depth chart currently is Tommie Campbell. He has the speed and range to help out in this matchup but when he's on the field Jerry Gray is going to use him on the outside. That leaves the last corner option for the Titans.
Friend of the Blog Alterraun Verner is going to have quite a challenge. I commonly say this about Verner's speed- he's not that fast, but he's very good at closing in on a receiver. That should help him out in this battle. Defensive players tend to lose track of Welker in the open field, so ATV's goal should be to keep Welker in front of him and prevent those dangerous yards-after-catch. That won't stop the high percentage completions (I'm not even sure they can be stopped) but it will help to limit the damage.
The Titans will be forced to play a lot with multi-cornerback sets as a result of Welker so we'll see a lot of Verner on the inside. Consider the alternative: sticking in your base package against (at least) a three receiver package means Welker is facing off against a linebacker or safety. Neither of those elicit pleasant thoughts.
Safety help and zone coverage will obviously also be utilized against New England. My personal choice would favour more zone coverage to account for the Patriots' other weapons. Stevan Ridley and the rest of the run game is less scary to me, so I'd rather game plan heavily to defend the pass. All of that is just my opinion. Let me know what you think or how you'd gameplan for the Patriots offense in the comments.